Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Marianne West Interview
Narrator: Marianne West
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: Klamath Falls, Oregon
Date: July 2, 2000
Densho ID: denshovh-wmarianne-01-0001

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AI: Well, today is July 2, 2000, and we're here in Klamath Falls, Oregon, with Marianne West. And I'm Alice Ito with the Densho Project, and videographer is Steve Hamada. And thanks very much, Marianne, for visiting with us today.

MW: It's my pleasure.

AI: I wanted to just start out at the beginning and ask you when and where you were born.

MW: I was born in Seattle, November 4th of 1926. I was born on Yesler Street by a midwife. But at the time, my parents lived in Leavenworth. So after, shortly after I was born, we moved to Leavenworth.

AI: And did you spend part of your childhood there?

MW: Until I was in about the fourth grade.

AI: Does anything stand out in your memory about Leavenworth? What do you remember most?

MW: I remember that we spoke Japanese and English mixed in school. And when I played with the kids, I probably answered in English because they were speaking to me in English. But when I went to school, sometimes I'd get the two languages mixed. And so after that, my folks said that we would speak English in the house so the rest of the children wouldn't have that problem when they started school.

AI: Well, can you tell me your mother's and father's name and a little bit about them?

MW: Uh-huh. My father's name was Sumekichi, but everyone called him Sam Sumehiro. And my mother's name was Hisaye. And they were both from Hiroshima in Japan.

AI: And tell me a little bit more about what you know about your father's life in Japan, his family.

MW: Well, my father came over to America, I believe about 1889, and he must have been sixteen. And he started working with the railroad crews that were laying the railroad lines. And eventually taught himself to read and write, and worked himself up to where he was the foreman of the gang. And when he was in his late thirties, he went back to Japan, and a marriage was arranged. He married my mother, who was twenty at the time. And they came over, and they went to Havre, Montana, where my father had a crew working laying railroad track. And my mother pitched in as a cook for the crew, and they worked there for several years before they moved out to the, Washington. And then they started working in, like Leavenworth area where they didn't have to move about.

AI: And so the crew that your dad was the foreman for and your mom cooked for, was that a Japanese crew?

MW: They were mainly Japanese and a few Filipinos.

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