Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: John Kanda Interview
Narrator: John Kanda
Interviewer: Ronald Magden
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: May 12, 2000
Densho ID: denshovh-kjohn-01

<Begin Segment 1>

RM: John, tell us where you were born, and little bit about your family, the beginning.

JK: I was born in Seattle, here on King Street, I understand. My parents were both from Japan. Going into the history, I found out that -- I knew that my oldest sister was a half sister. I didn't know just the circumstances of it, but I found the, that sister of the man that (mother) was married to initially, and that it didn't work out. And so, this was in Seattle. So when my father met her sometime later and married and raised a family of a sister that is three years older than myself, my brother that's six years older than myself, and a younger sister that's about a year and a half younger that I am. And we moved to the, shall we say south to the countryside (King County) because of my health. I was born as a premature, and the doctor after, having me on the Carnation, (can), milk type of diet, because Mother had no milk, (and) I broke out with hives and whatnot. The doctor told my parents that if I had any chance of living, it would have to be near a goat farm (for) fresh milk. And at that time we moved to South Park, I understand, just south of the King County Airport landing (strip). And anyway, being Japanese, they didn't read the English paper. And about a month or so after they found the goat farm and house to rent, they got eviction notice, because they were going to extend that landing strip one mile south. So they went looking for another goat farm, which brought us to Thomas, Washington, which is between Kent and Auburn. The goat farm was on the hill off of 99 on the Des Moines Highway. But my dad was in the business of a, limousine service in Seattle and so he had a car available all the time. And his work was in Seattle most of the time, so he would always pick up the milk. And so that's the reason we're out, ended up in Thomas, Washington, which is between Kent and Auburn.

RM: So you went to school, then, first at Thomas?

JK: Yes, I went to school in Thomas, which was a six-grades, grade school. I didn't finish there. I went through the third grade, then we moved to Auburn because my dad's business changed. He became a buyer for a shipping, produce shipping firms. And so his work was local, and his shippings, produce places, warehouses were in Auburn or Kent. So we moved to Auburn, and I finished school -- I didn't finish school, I went up to my junior year there in Auburn before Pearl Harbor.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

RM: Where were you on "Pearl Harbor Day"?

JK: Well, we were on the farm, you know, the Japanese, Isseis always wanted to be able to purchase land...

RM: Uh-huh.

JK: ...and my brother had turned eighteen about three years earlier. So they were looking for a place to purchase, and they found a 8-acre, strictly truck farm that the Japanese Amer-, well, the, they were nationals, had been leasing, and they were gonna be moving to Idaho with their -- some other families had farms there, and they had this farm and equipment up for sale, well, equipment up for sale, and the lease available. And the people that owned the farm were schoolteachers, one widow and her daughter taught at a Kent school system, and they're willing to give us a lease purchase agreement -- to my brother, that is, who was at that time, close to twenty-one. So we were on the farm, in fact, that particular day... Sunday is always a busy day for truck farmers, because the Monday market. And so we were bunching carrots. [Laughs] This is December 7th, but the carrots were still green and all, and so that's when Pearl Harbor occurred, and things changed ever since that time, yeah. They never went back to the farm.

RM: Were you in school? You must have been, at the time.

JK: Yes, I was in school, going to Auburn, the high school at that time, as a junior.

RM: What was the response of, say, the Caucasian students?

JK: Well, the Caucasian students, I -- some of them said, "Gee, I'm sorry, what's happening to you people," type of thing. But one of the first thing is that my mathematics teacher got me up front. The first, that was the first class I had -- and said, "Okay, my country -- " his country... [Laughs]

RM: Quote.

JK: [Laughs] Quote. "Is fighting your country," what do I feel about it? And I told him, "Mr. Shumacher, this is my country just as well." And, you know it's, being a junior and gone through civics and all that, you had a little, sort of rebel in you. And I said, "I'm just as American as you are," and sat down.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

RM: And you went where for the assembly camp?

JK: We were sent down to Pinedale (Assembly Center), California, on a one-week notice. And we left the farm to our three Filipino farm boys that were living there and working on the farm, with the agreement that we would turn everything over to them. And when they came back, I mean if we got back, we would like to purchase it at the same price.

RM: Did that agreement hold?

JK: No, it didn't work out, because when we came back, the farm was deserted, there's nothing there, nothing in the house, either, all the furnitures. And what happened, I understand, (as) the owners that lived in the nice house up front, (stated), well, the first year they, everything was ready to harvest and all, so they did very well. And the second year, they (stated), "It was so-so year." By the third year, they were just bickering and fighting, and one day they decided to put up a sign, "Everything for Sale." And they...

RM: So you were cleaned out.

JK: Cleaned out, (yes). We didn't have a list that could of been... the claim. They had a claim, shall we say, session that allowed the people -- if you had a written, what you sold and what you sold it for, you got, I don't remember, 20 percent or whatever.

RM: Yes.

JK: (Yes). But my brother was the head of the family, so, but I was still a teenager, so I don't know too much about the (agreement).

RM: Did you lose the land? Did the family lose...?

JK: We (did), we had it under lease purchase agreement, yes, at that time. I mean, when we left the place, and it was still intact. They wanted us to come back, but there was nothing there to work with, so we just became non-farmers.

RM: You went from Pinedale to what relocation center?

JK: Yes. There (in Pinedale) for five months, then we're sent up to Tule Lake center in northern California, to, not as dissenters, but it was just our permanent camp.

RM: Did you, did it, was your family impacted by going the camps? Did it destroy the family unity? What was the response of your family?

JK: Well, I think it's pretty much the same with most people, but at first, my brother... well, we had a, there were four of us in real sense, because my middle sister was married, and she was separated, I mean went to a separate camp. But there were all four of us in that room all the time, five of us really, in the small room. But my brother was the head of the family, so shortly after that, they had (bachelor quarters) -- not a bachelor, but one person group that they assigned him to. And so we had, four of us had the 20 x 20 room to ourselves, you might say.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

RM: When the government decided to test the loyalty of the Nisei, particularly at Tule...

JK: Yes.

RM: you remember that, that survey?

JK: I remember it quite well, 'cause there was a lot of, shall we say, anti-government type of activity that went on. I was no participant, nor were my parents or my brother, but they just said if they're doing, "What they're doing to us now is beyond belief," type of thing. And, you know there's strikes and things. Yes, it was a big, very uncomfortable feeling at that time. And I'm just a school kid, but I was a high school senior at that time, yes.

RM: You had to make the decision somewhere, whether to, on that survey, questions, what was it, twenty-six and twenty-seven?

JK: Yes. Well, my father had always told us, even before this, that he had never had intentions to go back to Japan. He was a second son, there's nothing to go back to, to start with. And she was, he was comfortable and he felt that if he never even went back to visit, he told us, "We are going to be here," and you know. So he always tried to tell us to be as good as, quote, "American citizens" that we could be. And, but that same incidence broke up a lot of families, because -- so he voted "yes" to both of the questions. Which meant he lost his...

RM: Citizenship.

JK: ...Japanese citizenship in a real sense. I mean, it wasn't official that Japan ever said that, but in a sense, he didn't have a country after that. So the rest of fam-, my brother and I voted "yes." "We will fight, we'll fight against the emperor," and...

RM: So after the survey, your father had said he was loyal to the United States. There must have been a group in Tule, then, that remained loyal to the United States.

JK: Well, initially, there were, we were there, and, but they had designated that place as the "detention center" quote/unquote, for the people that voted "no." And I always felt it was a completely wrong thing. Not about being that, voted "no," but a lot of families were close-knit family, father has always been the boss, you might say. And if the father said, "You vote 'yes,'" you know, there's some of my classmates and all, they'd vote "yes." I mean "no," I should say. [Laughs] And so they had to stay in Tule Lake, and I thought this was a very unfair, it wasn't a person-to-person thing, it happened to every, I think, male over sixteen or fifteen, I don't remember just exactly what age that you had to decide. In front of a officer and a interpreter which, we didn't need the interpreter, but, and so...

RM: The army recruiters came about the same time as the survey, or was it a little later?

JK: Yes, they did. I think it was February that both of these things took place. And they were lookin' for volunteers for combat, a unit which was the 442nd -- 100th, it wasn't called the 100th at that time, but the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

RM: And you made a decision here?

JK: Well, I made a decision I was going to volunteer, I was going to finish my senior year first. Now, my answer was a "yes-yes" on the, on the loyalty, so-called question.

RM: Then you, and you told the recruiters you were going to finish high school before you went in?

JK: Yes, they said that, "You'll probably be getting a 1-A --

RM: Yeah.

JK: -- designation soon." And my birthday was on the tenth of July, and by golly, about the twelfth of July, it came with a -- by that, this time we were, had been sent to Minidoka center in Idaho, because Tule Lake (had become) the detention center for the "no-no" peoples. And it (was) just a couple, three, four weeks I was in the army.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

RM: Before you get in the army, compare, can you compare Tule and Minidoka? Are they comparable? I think, for example, Minidoka --

JK: I would say it's black and white, almost. Tule Lake, you never got to see anybody outside the camp, never got to really go outside the camp until -- just before we left, they would permit us to go to hike up to the top of this Castle Rock Mountain, or they would call one Abalone Hill, which was a flat hill, oftentimes looked like a abalone. And I remember having our last Easter service in a, Christian youth group, high school group, up on the top of Castle Rock, as a group.

RM: And Minidoka?

JK: That's, Minidoka, boy, if you wanted to go out and buy something, a suit or something, or go out of the camp and get married, or whatever, you got to do that.

RM: Passes were more easy.

JK: Oh, they're much more lenient, and the people received you a little better, I would guess. But nobody got out of Tule Lake to even take a walk.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

RM: When did you go in the army? Do you remember approximately the month, year?

JK: This was, I went in, was inducted in end of May, the first of June, the second or, first or second of June. And I was sent immediately to Camp Shelby, (Mississippi) where they were training replacements for the infantry, 'cause they knew they needed a lot of replacements. 'Cause the 100th Battalion was already fighting, and much of the 442nd was broken up to be replacements for the 100th that was being disabled and killed.

RM: Why Camp Shelby? Was it, it certainly isn't European in climate, or anything. But why do you think they were sending people to Shelby? Just because it was there?

JK: It was kind of out-of-way place, and pretty much like all the camps. [Laughs]

RM: [Laughs] Did it feel just like another relocation camp?

JK: Well, but you know, we never got to go -- well I had one furlough in my thirteen weeks. It was a hurry-up, and they're supposed to give you a seventeen-week basic training. But this is only thirteen weeks because the Bruyeres campaign was going on at that time, and they needed replacements bad. As you know, they wiped out about half of the whole regiment at that time -- the Germans did -- and all the hard fighting. And so...

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

RM: So you went overseas when?

JK: I went overseas in September of '44, it would be. And my brother who was, had seventeen weeks of basic training in Camp Blanding was in a earlier replacement group in Camp Blanding, Florida -- his group came to Camp Shelby, and we had our furloughs together to go back to visit the folks at Minidoka. He was married at that time.

RM: Did, you must have had a lot of friends who were in the 442nd, and some of them got killed. How did you react to that, the knowledge, that...?

JK: Well, you know, it's hard to just say, because I had guys that I trained with that were killed in a machine gun... I was trained as a machine gunner, and I was the gunner, you might say. And when we went overseas, I was a rifleman, and I was given a rifle, and I was given the position of first scout on a infantry squad. And, you know, I had no training, whatsoever, zero. I had very little training with the M-1 rifle, to start with. At thirteen weeks you don't learn much at all. And, but my Hawaiian-born sergeant, for the, squad sergeant was very good to me, knowing that I had no training. He trained me as a first scout, something like, "You're in, at the point, but you don't worry about Germans shooting at you. They know that you're not too important, you're just a GI. But the third or fourth guy, they -- so you look for mines and trip wires. And the guy behind you, the second scout, kinda looks for the enemies." But he says, "The one thing to remember is -- " no, there's two things to remember. "One thing is to remember is, if you always, as you go forward looking for the traps, trip wires and whatnots, fresh dug mines," he says, "Always look for a place you could dive to if somebody shot at you." Said, "The first shot will almost never be for you, it'll be for somebody that's 'bout the third down the line." And he said, "The other thing is carry a lot of toilet paper with you." Now not for the reason you use toilet paper, normally, but the idea was if I found a trip wire, a raw spot in the ground that looked like it was freshly dug, to leave a lot of toilet paper there for everybody else behind to...

RM: Spot.

JK:, yes, uh-huh. Those are the two things he told me, just absolutely... and then I think, you think being on the point is the most dangerous place. I don't think it really was, although it was the most dangerous place once you got in the firing, 'cause you're way kinda more open to the snipers and whatnot.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

RM: The war ended, you were in France? Where were you when -- did they go back to Italy?

JK: Yeah, I joined the unit at the time of the "Lost Battalion," and they were so beat up. My squad, that squad, the rifle squad I joined, normally has twelve people, and it was down to two people. This is in our company. And our company was down to about one-fourth of the full strength. And our three guys that joined it kinda made a half strength because one of our wounded guys came back about the next day after we joined them. And so then it was a matter of getting well down at the French Riviera. [Laughs] They called it a Champagne Campaign, and it kinda was, in a sense. There was no real fighting. We're on the front line, and so you had to send out patrols, and they sent out patrols. And there was artillery fires and things, but -- and there were different kinds of trip wires and things around, but very few got killed or injured. I know one of my guys I trained with in Shelby was captured, and, wounded and captured, and he spent the rest of his wartime fixing railroads, lines for the Germans after the U.S. Air Force bomb it. They'd fix that middle of the night, and the next day the bombers would come again and bomb it again -- [laughs] -- and this is what he told me, just a workforce.

RM: At the end of the war, let's say VE Day, April '45, you were, where in Europe were you?

JK: Well, we were, after we got to full strength again down in the Riviera, the unit was sent back to Italy. And they took a, you know the original guys that were there, they almost back to where they ended, before they went to France. I mean, the Arno River there. They were on the north bank of the Arno when the war, I mean they were shipped out to France, southern France. But we started a couple of miles north of the Arno River for this last big push that broke the so-called Gothic Line, and made the war in Italy basically come to end a lot quicker. And we lost a lot of people there. I lost lots of guys I graduated high school with in Tule Lake. I lost two killed in action, I mean they were good friends of mine. Out of the squad, when I joined the group and before we went back down to Italy, I lost two out of there, that group.

RM: Were they eighteen-, nineteen-year-old people...?

JK: They were just, they were all nineteen. I guess you had to be nineteen before they sent you into battle overseas. And we're all nineteen, you might say, not all of us, but most of us. Some of the original guys, my squad leader, the second squad leader -- had, the first one was wounded badly -- but the second squad leader is one guy in the whole 442nd that went through all the battles every day without a scratch. And he deserves a medal for just being able to do that.

RM: They're awarding a great many medals this week or next week. Twenty Congressional Medals of Honor.

JK: Yes, this is what I understand. They upgraded many of the so-called Distinguished...

RM: Service Crosses.

JK: Yeah. And lot of the army, combat people wonder why the 442nd never received more than that one originally, the one Medal of Honor. And...

RM: It's usually awarded to people who are killed. Are there many who are still alive, who receive that medal, do you know?

JK: You mean how...?

RM: Usually you had to get killed to get the Congressional Medal of Honor.

JK: Well, not always, but usually it would be the killed that would get the Medal of Honor.

RM: They're going to have a memorial, I understand, in Washington D.C. for the Nisei World War II veterans.

JK: Yes.

RM: You've been intimately connected with that, haven't you?

JK: Yes, I've been very much connected with those efforts, yes.

RM: That's a commitment to those who were killed? A commitment to the belief that you're as good Americans as anybody? What is the...?

JK: Yes. I had a, really the pleasure and the honor, having come back with the 442nd -- at that time, a presidential review was, has been set up for us, to receive the so-called, the seventh Presidential Unit Citation for the last battles on the Gothic Line. And, I was a tech sergeant at that time -- that's a platoon sergeant -- and luckily, my, our company was considered the alert company, that, the crisis company to take care of any problems in Italy while we were there. So we were well-trained and kept, you know we did calisthenics every day and got bigger guns, bigger machine guns, and we got armored cars, and whatnot. So my group, under, being the platoon leader I had one-fourth of the riflemen under my, shall we say, direction and we marched, did exercise and, regular and whatnot. And every time they had a so-called award center and wanted -- cities that were liberated along the way, they would have lot of, on an anniversary of one year or whatever, they'd wanna celebrate that. So we used to go march for them, because we marched better than anybody else. [Laughs] And because of that, we got nice placing in the regiment. When they came back, the regiment was smaller in number by that time. So President Truman put on the eighth -- I mean the seventh unit citation, basically right in front of me. And being a staff sergeant, we had the right flank you might say. I mean, the staff sergeant and the tech sergeants were all, and I was a tech sergeant. So we got to see the nice... and then, two of my classmates, I graduated the Tule Lake high school together, they were twins. They were not identical twins, but they were twins and they looked like twins -- [Laughs] -- you might say. And they were the flag bearers, Conrad and Laverne Kuwahara, from the Sacramento area.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

RM: As you're, the war is winding down, or over, and you're thinking about your future, how did you consider going to the University of Washington? What, that transition from the military life to being a student. Can you take us through that a little bit?

JK: Yeah. Well, you know, as a -- this is crazy, but, as a kid we used to, there was a Caucasian lady that had no children -- had a nephew, she had a nephew, or the couple, you know. They had a nephew that came from Boston every summer and one, this is grade school age and into junior high school age. All the neighborhood kids used to go there, 'cause they had chicken, turkeys, pheasants, cats, calves, you name it. And she was very good to all of us. So this a mixture of Japanese American kids and the Caucasian kids. And we had, play there and she'd always have a lemonade -- not always, but they would have lemonade for us and whatnot. And she was a good teacher, trying to, teaching us how to get along with each other. And at that, one time she used to complain about gallbladder trouble. I had no idea what gallbladder trouble was. But I always kinda wanted to go into medicine if I could. I set my studies up later to try to achieve that. And I would say, "Mrs. Leslie, when I grow up, I'm gonna be a doctor and take care of your gallbladder for free." [Laughs] I mean, she remembers this and she always would bring that back up. And my kid sister is three years younger than I, she -- well, it's about two-and-a-half years, I guess -- she pops up and says, "I'm gonna be a nurse and help him." [Laughs] And that's, she would always kid us about that. But that's, I guess, I thought of hoping to become a doctor was way back when I was just a grade school kid.

So when I came back, I saved my GI Bill. I found that if I saved the GI Bill, I would have four years of medical education. Now that would be, the GI Bill allowed $350 tuition, which is, takes care of, if you went to University of Washington Medical School, it took care of everything, you see. But St. Louis or other private schools is much higher, and their tuition was $800. But the government, the GI Bill took care of $350 of it.

RM: It's, I'm very interested in... you applied at the University of Washington Medical School.

JK: Yes. I was hoping to get to UW, 'cause it would, the GI Bill would take care of my cost of going there, the medical school.

RM: But you were, you were unsuccessful...

JK: Yeah, I was unsuccessful.

RM: getting... can you, this is the earliest years of the University of Washington Medical School.

JK: Yeah, it was the second, well, it was, I started, finished school when it was the second year of the medical school.

RM: Were there Nisei in the medical school?

JK: There was one Nisei that was the first Nisei into the medical school that graduated out of there the year I graduated as a, with a bachelor's degree. And there was a kind of unwritten, shall we say, rule that they accepted only one Oriental a year at that early stage. And I was hoping to be the second one, but I was, being able to finance it a little better, but I was unfortunate. I, like most people, told to apply to two, three other medical schools, and I applied to two Jesuit schools -- Creighton and St. Louis University. And I was accepted at St. Louis real early, and that they, but they wanted a $800 first-year payment, which was fine with me. I was still hoping -- after I sent my $800 -- I was still hoping that UW would take me. But no, I was not chosen as one of the people.

RM: See, that rule, let's say an unwritten, the unwritten rule, has this disappeared...?

JK: I think it was unwritten rule at that time. It was that way for another number of years before they started accepting just equal basis, I mean, you know, applications.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

RM: So, did you get married about this time to Grace, or...?

JK: Oh, no. [Laughs] I was single, I was single.

RM: She comes after medical school?

JK: No, so I worked my way through University of Washington the four years. I had to work my way through part of the medical school, too. And did things that the medical school didn't want you to be doin'. But we worked for private hospitals as we got into the junior and senior year for room, board, and laundry type of thing.

RM: When did you graduate from medical school?

JK: 1954.

RM: And as a general practitioner?

JK: Well, it was a general, I mean, I could have gone into anything at that point, but I wanted to get back to the valley where I grew up. Not necessarily into Auburn, but where, but to the valley area. And so I looked for my residency, internship residency program on the West Coast, and the Pierce County Hospital (in Tacoma) was active at that time. They had three residents and ten interns every year. And so I was there for basically three years before I started my practice in Sumner, Washington.

RM: Sumner has had a long history of anti-Japanese agitation. Everybody I've ever talked to has wondered why you would pick the town that's had more trouble with and...?

JK: Well, I got asked that a whole lot, too. [Laughs]

RM: Yeah.

JK: And you know, my own feeling was that, "Hey look," you know being young and brash at that time, says, "I'm just as American as you are," type of feeling, you know? And, but in St. Louis, I took care of the blacks and Hispanics, and poor Caucasian and quite well-to-do Caucasians in the process of going to different hospitals that the St. Louis University had. And when I did my internship at the Pierce County Hospital, it's mostly where people that were, had little money, but, here again, the racial groups are different -- the Indians, Orientals, Hispanics, Caucasians. And I got along well with them and they got along well with me and they showed me no feelings of anti-Japanese racial feelings at all.

I got to know the specialists in Tacoma quite well because of being a resident and all. I was there, and they would give up time to be basically teachers at the county hospital. And so when I got ready to start practice, well some of them offered, "Why don't you come join us?" type of thing. But I wanted to get out to the valley. And that's one thing I wanted to do. I liked the fishing and the hunting, and that type of, mushrooming and things like that. And so one gynecologist/obstetrician that I got to know quite well, and he allowed me to do a lot of things under his guidance at the, in the surgery rooms. He suggested I go see (Dr. Denzler), Clark and Duffy there in Sumner. They're the three doctors that been there for a number of years. And they had rented one office, and said, "You go talk to them." So he called them and told them that I might be calling, and so when I called, they were ready to say, "Come over and..."

RM: Practice.

JK: " with us." And so I did. They wondered why I wanted to come to Sumner because the feeling was that way. And I said, "Hey, look." I said, "I got along with these other people before, and I'm -- " whatcha call it -- "bullheaded enough to try, and I want a chance to try." And so they said, "Well, we'll try to help in every way we can." Their facilities were too small for them to take me, but they said if they was big enough they, they -- I feel they were honest about it -- said they would have me join them. And, but they said, "We'll give you the, anybody that was looking for a place, that we couldn't take care of 'em because of the..." they were busy people. But I took on the job of, working with the free clinics, baby shots and things like that, and school clinics. And the senior member of that group, the three doctors, he was the so-called city health officer. Well he said, "I'll give you this job. It only pays ten dollars a month, and you'll probably use more gas than that just servicing it, but..." Said, "If you watch the police, I mean, jail patients and you make sure that they have -- I mean, they'll be treating drunken diabetes or something like that so that they don't run into trouble that way and take care of their nicks and scrapes and things like that." So he said, "Then you'll get to meet interesting people in the city administration." So I said, "Fine." And because of the school connection because of the preschool shots and things, I got to know a lot of the nurses and whatnot, and it worked out real fine.

RM: Did the issue of socialized medicine ever come up in Sumner? Did you ever have to deal with that? You know, it was a big issue in the early 1950s, or actually all of the 1950s.

JK: Yeah, well you know, socialized medicine in a sense of, well, when I first started my internship and residency at Pierce County Hospital, took care of all the...

RM: Indigents.

JK: ...indigents, yeah. But on the other hand, when the... Medicare came through, their funding stopped. Okay, the government funding of that. And so now we all had the whatcha call it, to be able to go to our own hospital of choice and whatnot, doctor of choice. And that did in the county hospital system. I got quite a few county patients coming to me as private patients initially, and I, being the new guy on the block -- they hadn't had a new doctor in the Puyallup/Sumner area for years. And so they used to rotate the emergency calls on the weekends through the Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup. And so one doctor asked me would I take his weekend. And before you knew it I was taking weekends for about half a dozen, a dozen doctors. And so there I was kinda the emergency room doctor. And they would call the emergency room, says, "We would like to have a doctor come see us." I mean, you know, they says, "We can't bring him in. We can't afford an ambulance," type of thing. So the one taking the call says, "Well, we have a Japanese, new doctor, a Japanese. You don't want a Japan, mind Japanese -- [Laughs] -- ancestry, he'll be available." And most of 'em, they want to see a doctor, so they'll say, "Well, yeah fine. It makes no difference to us, send him in." And then I, and much of my practice was developed that way, through giving shots at the school, and going, and working in a free clinic, migrant industries clinic in Alderton, which is between Orting and Sumner.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

RM: You became involved with the JACL, Puyallup Valley JACL about, maybe when you got, moved to Sumner.

JK: You know, I, in St. Louis, there's no social life for us Japanese Americans in the sense of other town. But the JACL always had its meeting, and sometime get-together, and so I used to go to those. And I met my wife-to-be there, but not, we didn't get married for a number of years until I got back to the West Coast, and I was finishing my residency program. But that was, so we got to know, I got introduced to JACL at that time mainly. And so I came back to Sumner, and this is a crazy story, but one of the insurance -- Tom Takamura -- [laughs] -- is a well-known Puyallup person -- invited me to come visit the JACL, come to the JACL meeting. And so he had told me the time and place and all that, and he told me he'll meet me there. So I went to this meeting, and the first preview that, Puyallup Valley JACL Chapter that I went to, I ended up being the only guy there. And the program from Seattle, which was a Japan Airlines -- I still remember the man's name. He had two stewardess with him, he had a motion, I mean a movie on Japan travel. And they come in and they're looking for... and I know nothing about JACL, their facilities there at the Buddhist church. And so, but I heard some noises upstairs, I went up, and this is a Issei group of women that were socializing, their club. So I invited them down, said, "This is gonna be a movie on the Japanese travel." And I got to, into JACL that way.

And then about a year or so later -- and this was not very far after that -- I went, I started going to the meeting, and after Grace and I got married, we started going to the meeting. And one meeting there is gonna be a election meeting, okay? And somebody put my name in, you know. I almost knew nobody out there because I was not a Tacoma Buddhist Church or, I'm a Methodist, we belong to the Sumner Methodist Church and whatnot. And so, so the election is going on and it was a ballot election, it was a mail ballot election. If you hadn't voted, somebody comes in the door, says, "Have you voted yet?" And you say, "No," they give 'em a ballot and say, "Vote," type of thing. And, and one day this, toward the end, it was, turned out to be a tie, see. And, and I had no idea why they were voting for me, other than having taken care of that first program. [Laughs] But so, the other fellow that's well-known person, we were tied, I was tied with him. And then a fellow walks in that I never knew. I got to know him better later on, but I didn't know who he was or anything, and soon as he came in, they asked him if he had voted, and he said, "No." So, so my so-called opponent gets up and takes him outside in the hallway, and pretty soon he comes in and it's my name. [Laughs] That's how I got involved in JACL. And I went to a number of their national conventions. Thirteen in a row before -- that's twenty-six years before I stopped going to them. I, we're going to the San Jose this year, because my brother-in-law lives down there. And I got very much involved at district-wise and also nationally, I was national vice-president at one time.

RM: This is the era of the repeal of the alien land law, when you were president.

JK: Yes, uh-huh.

RM: That must have been an ordeal.

JK: Yeah that was a big load. You know, they may say, "What are you doing that for?" They could buy land now, type of thing. I mean, well, not easily. Now they could buy land. They had to become American citizen. But they could become American citizen now.

RM: Yeah, since the McCarran Act.

JK: Yeah. So, you had to have your first papers is what it amounted to. But, it was a stigma that I think needed to be wiped out of the state constitution. And so I co-chaired the local group that really worked hard. I mean, we worked hard and raised money hard and gave a lot of talks, and even went door knocking with my daughter -- older daughter, trailing along with me in Buckley -- because three years in a row, three elections in a row, I think they were by two years, it was knocked down badly by the people in Buckley. Well, maybe in the Tacoma area, you know, it might have passed barely, type of thing. And so I worked very hard on that...

RM: It was Tom Takemura's life goal, wasn't it?

JK: Yeah, Tom, Tom, Tom and I were co-chair, and we were, both worked hard.

RM: He was a very fine man.

JK: Yeah.

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<Begin Segment 12>

RM: When, you also got involved in medical society.

JK: [Laughs] Yeah, well...

RM: Can we hear about that?

JK: Yeah, it's one of those things. I got to know all the Tacoma specialists quite well, and lot of other doctors in those three years I spent in... and so, they never had a non-Tacoma person be the president of medical society, Pierce County Medical Society. And they never had a non-Caucasian [Laughs] up to that time. And I got elected on the board, and then, as one of the vice presidents. Somebody decided it was time for a change, and submitted my name, and they came to me, they said they're gonna do that. So I said, "Well go ahead if you feel you want to do that." And so I was elected president of the Pierce County Medical Society. And that opened up a lot of other things that happened to my life because of that, which meant being on board of banks and being on board of -- I was the eastern Pierce County draft, on the draft board. And Captain Chester Chastick, who was the Washington State director of the, you know, came to me and said, he went through the records, "There's no minority group that's ever been on the draft board for any board in the state of Washington." So he would like to have me be, be one, so that people know that we are trying to change things around a little bit, you know. And so I agreed and spent three years on the draft board. Three years as a draft board member and then three years as a medical advisor which was not much of anything to do.

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<Begin Segment 13>

RM: You and Grace had two daughters.

JK: Yes, uh-huh.

RM: Phyllis and Jean?

JK: Yes.

RM: Uh-huh. And can you tell us a little bit about them?

JK: Well, Jean passed away after, well, she was going to UPS and she came back one, after Christmas for the vacation and said, "Dad, my knee hurts. Take a look at it." We don't treat family, you know, doctors, okay. So I looked at it. I couldn't really find anything wrong with her, but she looked real pale, and I thought, "Well gee, she might have infectious mono or something." That's a college illness, about that time of year, Christmas vacation. And so I said, "Well you better call Dr. Kenman," who's one of my partners in the medical office. And said, "Have him see you." And so she went and came back and says, "She took some blood from me, and they're going to call us toward the evening." And said, I was to get on one phone and he was to get -- she was to be on the other phone. And he told us, "It didn't look good." So wanted to have the hematologist see her. As it turned out, it was a very acute lymphatic leukemia. She was treated, and she couldn't go to school anymore, college, because of the time lost and the treatments and things. And she, finally ended up looking for a bone donor, marrow, you know, bone marrow donor. And found one that was a fair, shall we say, match. And so we tried it as a last ditch thing. But she didn't survive. She passed away at Hutchinson Center. And my other girl, the older one, she's single, she works for Multi Care as a lab technician. She has a, in charge of one group of lab technicians in the Auburn area, that, different laboratories they have there. And so she's well.

RM: How do you look at your life as you achieved your medical degree, your, you...?

JK: Well, you know, I've thought of that, and it all goes back to probably 1940, I think it was, where I was at a oratorical contest. I was not a contestant, okay...

RM: Oh. [Laughs]

JK: ...this was the finals for the Northwest. And there were, we were at the, I think it was the Auburn Buddhist Church. That's where lot, I mean, the churches are where these things are held 'cause they got the capacity, shall we say. And there was a -- I don't even remember his name now, he was from Seattle, I believe. He gave a talk, I mean, they were talking about being, Americanism type of thing, you know, the topic. And he said, "You know, just recently the JACL passed the okay on a creed, Japanese American creed that Mike Masaoka wrote." And I knew a little about Mike Masaoka, but not really as much as I got to know later. But, and as, as he read that Japanese American creed, I thought, "That is a good thing we all ought to follow." And that always impressed me, and I think consciously or subconsciously, everything I've done since those days after the war was over, that is, was directed toward just kind of proving ourselves to be equal, and also to be, shall we say, feel good about getting the kind of education we got, and being ever remindful that the American public as a group are quite fair.

RM: Would you see internment ever happening again to the Japanese American or any other group?

JK: Well, I think not. And boy, if it happens again for Iraqis or whatever, I mean, I think the Japanese American Citizen League... I think with our economy is better, most of us are much better off now, so we could really help to stop anything of that racial tone, type of thing, to go on. Racial or sex, I mean, whether it's talking about gays or whatever. Yeah. It's our duty I think. It's every American's duty. [Laughs] But we have a special place in trying to fight things like that.

RM: Is there anything you would like to say to the next generation's students who are going to be viewing this videotape?

JK: [Laughs] Well, certainly education helps, you know. And you got to be educated. And you got to do everything you can to be educated. And parents should do everything that way, too. But aside from education, I think it's good to have the feeling that you're okay and they're okay, the organizations are okay, but you have a, you fit in it, you have a role to play in it, whatever it may be. You don't have to be president of a firm or a chairman, or even on the board or anything like that. I think that we all work toward a common ground that we're all equal, and I think that's it. Yeah.

RM: I think we're there.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.