Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Tsuguo "Ike" Ikeda Interview I
Narrator: Tsuguo "Ike" Ikeda
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: September 27, 2000
Densho ID: denshovh-itsuguo-01

<Begin Segment 1>

AI: Today is September 27, 2000. We're here in Seattle, Washington, with Tsuguo Ikeda, also known as Ike. I'm Alice Ito here at the Densho Project, and Dana Hoshide is on the camera. Thanks very much, Ike, for joining us today. And I wanted to just start off by asking you about your father. What was his name, and where did he come from in Japan?

TI: His name was Minoru Ikeda, but he got a English name, Tom Ikeda. And family came from Okayama, Odagun Omura.

AI: And you mentioned in an earlier conversation with me that he first immigrated to the U.S. in 1909. I was wondering, do you have any idea of why he came or what he did in those early years?

TI: No, I really don't know. (I), as a son, (I) never socialized, communicating, only in obeying what he said, and that was it. And so, I certainly missed that because I didn't know him as a person. But he did things like work on a railroad, lumber mill, that sort of thing and, to get enough money to go back to Japan to get married.

AI: And then, in fact, speaking of marriage, could you tell me your mother's name and...

TI: Tomoe Ikeda.

AI: And where did she come from in Japan?

TI: Same general area. So they were acquainted that way by family relationships.

AI: And you mentioned that your mother -- in an earlier conversation -- your mother arrived in May of 1920. Do you happen to know if your parents had originally intended to go back to Japan, or do you know whether they had decided to live in the U.S. permanently?

TI: I had a feeling that, like many immigrants, they were ready to make their mint. They thought they would really get rich in a hurry and go back. But that never happened.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

AI: Well, now tell me, when and where were you born?

TI: I was born in Portland, Oregon, August 15, 1924. And we lived in a, rented a hotel in which mostly transients lived there. A lot of Filipinos who worked in the canneries used to live there, too. And I still remember climbing the stairs as a little child. It looked like a huge mountain. I kept climbing and climbing to get up there. I was scared of heights. Maybe that's where I learned it -- [laughs] -- looking down.

AI: And were your parents working there at the hotel at that time, also?

TI: Well, they worked there and as well as at a restaurant. My father was a janitor all these years, and mother worked in the dishwashing room.

AI: So really they both had two jobs...

TI: Yes.

AI: ...managing the hotel as well as the restaurant work.

TI: Working seven days a week. No vacation time.

AI: Do you have any visual memory of what the hotel looked like or the block that it was on?

TI: Well, other than being on a second floor and this tremendously long staircase to climb, we had a, of course, a basement, and huge logs were used to heat the furnace for the hotel. And it was dark down there, and I was scared about that. Usually I'm a pretty nice kid and all, but one day we were playing in our favorite place and, a lot, and there was an old car sitting there. It wouldn't operate, but we were monkeying around, havin' a good time. And then police came, and we ran, and I hid under the bed, and I was so scared that I'd done something awful. And I never knew what the results were, but I was just scared. I still remember -- [laughs] -- that incident.

AI: Well, now you also had an older brother and sister and younger brother. And what was your older sister's name?

TI: Shizuka.

AI: And you mentioned that she was born in 1921.

TI: Yes.

AI: And then your brother, his name?

TI: Kazuo.

AI: That he was born, then, in 1922?

TI: Right.

AI: And you came next?

TI: Yes.

AI: And then your, you had a younger brother?

TI: Yeah. Saburo.

AI: Born in 1926?

TI: Yes.

AI: And were you all born there in Portland?

TI: Yes, uh-huh. Yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

AI: Well, now at some point, you didn't live in the hotel your whole childhood, is that right?

TI: Yes.

AI: You moved then?

TI: Then we moved to another smaller -- actually it was two-story home. And we rented out the upstairs rooms to single men. And I'm sure it was to help bring income. Our whole family actually ended up working at this one restaurant. In the summertime, we used to do dishwashing, and my sister used to baby-sit for the owner's child. So we were really related closely with that owner.

AI: Right. So your whole family was busy working to support the family...

TI: Yes.

AI: ...bring in some income?

TI: And because we were quite poor, we, each summer we used to go out on the berry farm quite early in life -- I used to go with my younger brother -- and we'd, we're strawberry picking, raspberry picking, and save enough money so that that was to be our clothing allowance for the year. So I never had a vacation. And I wondered about these other kids that had summer vacations. But this was part of our life, and so we just accepted it as a fact.

AI: Where were these farms where you did the berry picking during the summer? Was that in Portland?

TI: Gresham. No, outside of... and I remember one time I rode my bicycle all the way out there. It was quite a ways at that time. And so we lived there, and we learned how to cook, ourselves, and manage our living. Because we were with other kids, it was just a fun time working together. [Laughs]

AI: So was this in elementary school that you started going out...

TI: Yes.

AI: the berry farms...

TI: Yeah, uh-huh.

AI: ...and, you would stay there most of the summer then?

TI: Yeah.

AI: Well, that's a very young age to be away for such a long time.

TI: Yeah. It seemed that way, but other kids were doing it, so, you know, that's what, seemed very normal.

AI: Well, now was this mostly Japanese American kids out there?

TI: Yes, yes. It was a Japanese farmer, so...

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

<Begin Segment 4>

AI: Well, now tell me more about your elementary school years. Do you have any memory of when you first started school?

TI: Gee, my memory is weak on that. Well, only thing I remember is play out in the playfields, playing, fighting each other -- playacting fighting. [Laughs] So it, it's very limited, I remember.

AI: Do you have any memory of having any trouble speaking English or -- now, tell me, was English or Japanese your first language?

TI: Yeah. I always spoke to my parents in English, and they spoke back to me in Japanese. And my... although I went to Japanese school right after elementary school and high school, I never did master the language. But I did learn how to play ping-pong quite well. [Laughs]

AI: Was that part of your recess activity at Japanese school?

TI: Well, it was, we used to have, there were two ping-pong tables, and we used to play on those. Just before the class started, we had time to... so that was encouragement for us to hustle, walk the, walk twelve blocks to play. And as I say, I didn't, never learned how to master the language, but I tried. And usually at the end of the year they give awards out, and so for the first time, they gave a special award for, to me, for trying. [Laughs] So that was quite a, quite an award.

AI: Well, so there were enough Japanese Americans in Portland to have a Japanese language school then?

TI: Yes.

AI: So what was the makeup of your class in your regular elementary school? Did you have many Japanese Americans in your class?

TI: Yes, uh-huh. Well, when you figure we had a couple hundred Japanese American students going to Japanese school, and our school, Coach School, was the closest school to, majority of Japanese Americans lived around that area along with the Japanese school.

AI: Was there a name of that neighborhood or area in Portland?

TI: I don't remember it.

AI: Well, were there, tell me a little bit more about the school. Were there any other ethnic minorities or racial minorities at that time?

TI: Oh, I remember a few Chinese Americans. We were on the outskirts of Japantown and Chinatown. But, it used to be limited amount of name-calling even at that time, "Japs" or "Chinks." But it wasn't a big problem. It did occur, but...

AI: Did you ever get in any fights or quarrels about that?

TI: Well, I just was not one to fight. I just didn't like to, so I pretty much stayed clear. And even though they intimidate you to get involved, I just didn't.

AI: So that was student-to-student, then...

TI: Yes.

AI: far as that kind of interaction. What about treatment by teachers or the school officials? How did you find that?

TI: I don't remember any negative treatment at all with teachers. Of course, at that time, I wasn't really aware of racism and that sort of thing. It was only after the war that it came to make a difference.

AI: Well, I'd also like to ask you a little bit more about the Japanese American community. Did you have activities like during the New Year's or summertime?

TI: Yes. We had our Yamaguchi-ken, ken picnics. Picnics was the biggest thing. So the school would have a picnic. I guess every excuse we'd have a picnic. And then once in a great while, we'd have the Japanese shows at the Nichiren church on the stage. And so we had things of that sort. And then we also had judo, which I tried for two years. And I had the distinct honor of being the only student who broke his bone. I should have known better, but I was trying real hard to make up for couple weeks when I was sick. And there was going to be a judo tournament coming up, and so I wanted to really brush up, and I overdid myself. But other than that, there was a time when in Japanese school, somebody had gone to a Japanese show, and they showed how to use a bamboo pole and twist your legs and kick it and see how far you can kick that pole up. And so naturally I tried, and I kicked myself off and I broke my elbow. [Laughs]

AI: That must have been painful.

TI: Somewhat, yes. But it was more embarrassing than hurt. But other than those two incidents where I broke my collarbone in judo or my collarbone, at least physically, I was okay. [Laughs]

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

<Begin Segment 5>

AI: Well, now you mentioned the shows, the occasional programs at the Nichiren church. Were your parents members...

TI: No.

AI: ...or did you belong?

TI: No. They worked always full-time, overseeing the hotel at nights or weekends. So we just went with friends and enjoyed it very much. And so we had, well, you know at that time they had Rose Festival, which the community, Japanese community helped produce a float made out of flowers and felt pretty proud about that. And they had a Japanese American Boy Scout troop, and had a band. So that was nice.

AI: Did you, were you able to participate in any of those things, the band or the...

TI: No.

AI: ...Boy Scouts?

A. Later on I tried, but didn't have time.

AI: I wanted to ask you also if your parents practiced any religion at home or if they gave you any religious teaching or encouraged you in some way?

TI: Not at all. No. We just didn't communicate. We just pretty much said, "Hai." Learned how to say "hai" and in a very polite way, especially. And so really it's tragic, but they're still strangers to me as individuals, yeah.

AI: Well, now you mentioned just now how they stressed the politeness? What other things did your parents emphasize with you?

TI: Well, obviously it was work, and to do work and be responsible and try to stay straight-and-narrow. [Laughs] which made that one incident with the police really disturbing to me. [Laughs] Feeling guilt, feeling... but they were hardworking, committed to raise us. I remember one Christmas from the closet doors, my mother opened up and gave us each, one orange each. And to me, it was a real nice gift, and appreciated that. But it, in reflection, of course, I found this really showed how poor they were, and, or at least they saved money and not spend it too foolishly. But, that's the only gift I could remember all those years that was that meaningful. I still remember. Yeah. And I don't remember at all where any of us kids really complained about it or anything like that. They were just grateful for the orange.

AI: Really stood out in your mind?

TI: Yes.

AI: Now, in some Japanese American families, especially where the parents are working so much, so much of the time, the oldest sister and oldest brother take on some roles. And I'm wondering what kind of relation you had with your older brother and sister, if they...

TI: I was primarily relating to my younger brother, who actually in many ways acted like he was the older brother. He took care of me in getting... and he was very good at saving money, so he'd buy things for me. So we had the closest relationship there, and he continued to do that after we got older. [Laughs]

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

<Begin Segment 6>

AI: Well, I also wanted to ask you, turning now to how you got involved with church activities, because even though your parents were not able to or didn't participate, somehow you got involved. Can you tell me about that?

TI: Well, I like to relate to other people, and there were some kids in Japanese school that were going to the (Epworth) Methodist Church, which is only about four blocks away, so it was very convenient. And it just so happened the wife of the minister was a great cook, and I loved to eat. So that was really an inducement -- [laughs] -- on my stomach. And my adult person -- teacher who taught us Sunday school was Milton (Maeda), who was my teacher, and he always got us good cookies, which was, again, a great inducement. So I enjoyed that, and 'course because it was so much socializing with each other, I found that to be really satisfying, and I found church to be a great place to be at.

AI: About when was it that you started attending? Were you in elementary school...

TI: Yes.

AI: ...or junior high?

TI: Yes. I used to go to Sunday school classes and elementary school. And in high school, we had a youth fellowship group. I was president. And I still remember this date. One time I was managing the group meeting, and the minister's wife was there. And I happened to, I was a little bit disturbed and I says, "Jesus Christ." It really embarrassed me that, I don't generally curse, but saying those words in front of minister's wife in church was very shocking to me. [Laughs] And I've never, I don't believe I've ever repeated those words that way again. But I just had such positive reinforcement, other people appreciating what I did, and so that continued to encourage me to do more and more of that.

AI: Well, it sounds like you were very, very active with the Epworth Church. That, as during your childhood and growing up and through junior high school to the high school years, that by the time you reached high school years, it sounds like you were very active with the youth fellowship.

TI: Yes. I just enjoyed it, and that really helped condition me as, I think that that might be the life, once I graduated school and, so that's how I ended up being a social worker.

AI: Did you ever, while you were in high school, were you ever considering becoming a minister yourself?

TI: No. I didn't think I was that good a person. [Laughs] So I never seriously considered that at all, although I enjoyed the life in the church very much. So I, I feel very fortunate I had that training ground experience to learn what to do and how not to do things, and gradually gave me confidence.

AI: When you say, "how to do things or how not to do things," what do you mean?

TI: Well, when you're organizing for an event at church through the youth group, how do you involve people? Don't try to control how things should be, but involve the group. And really trying to create a friendly relationship within the group. And so it's having to (speak publicly), learning how to do that, and reading worship service or speaking briefly. It all helped me in later years.

AI: Well, now you, earlier you called it the Japanese Methodist Church. Can you tell me, was it an all-Japanese American congregation?

TI: Yes. This is a, all along the West Coast we had the largest number of Japanese Methodist Churches within the Protestant belief group. So it was only Japanese Americans who attended. So we had a strong Issei congregation all in Japanese, and we had a Nisei congregation all in English. And so I enjoyed that experience. And I don't know, later, after the war was completed, we were taught not to be with each other, to integrate. So I happened to go to many Caucasian churches -- ended up at the First Baptist and found them to be friendly, and so I started attending there. Well, the people that came back, the Niseis that came back weren't doing that. So when the minister, Reverend Hayashi, came to Portland, Oregon to start the church again, I quickly changed my membership to the Epworth church. And found by doing that, even though it was segregated, it really made it possible for more Niseis to come. So, I had no problem in that.

AI: So having the ethnic community-based church had some very, it sounds like very positive aspects?

TI: Yes, you felt welcomed. You had opportunity to participate any which way you wanted to. There was no reservation, no questions asked. So it was a great place to be at to be part of that family.

AI: Now, before the war, was the minister at Epworth also Japanese?

TI: Yes.

AI: Was he Issei or Nisei?

TI: Yeah , all Isseis. There were no Niseis at that time. So we were very fortunate to have Japanese Methodist ministers who were changed from different cities. So we had several different ministers over the years. And well, I know they had a rough, tough life because the amount of money people donated was very limited. So times were rough for the minister, but still gave a lot to the community.

AI: And were your ministers mostly bilingual then because you mentioned...

TI: Yes.

AI: ...that there was an Issei service in Japanese...

TI: Yeah, uh-huh.

AI: ...and a Nisei service in English.

TI: All, practically all the ministers at that time were bilingual and, whereas later on, it became even a Sansei, Yonsei pastor couldn't speak much (Japanese). Even myself, although I went to Japanese school, my conversation was very limited. And so I, I feel I cheated myself by not talking back to my parents in Japanese. So I got away with just taking (an) easy way out.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

AI: Well, now I also wanted to get a picture of what your regular high school life was like. But now, when you were in elementary school, you did have some other Japanese Americans in your class.

TI: Yeah.

AI: What about in high school?

TI: Yeah, we had, pretty, I forgot how many, about fifty or sixty. My age group in the Japanese community was much smaller. If it were around ten years later, it'd be a larger bulk of kids that were of Japanese ancestry. But I don't, in high school, I was, I was elected into being the football manager, and used to go out for that. But they didn't see any problem, me doing it or I didn't feel they, was any limits set for me. But there weren't too many things of that sort I could do because I had Japanese school right after elementary school or high school. So when I went to a football game, I skipped Japanese school. [Laughs]

AI: And I should ask you, what high school did you go to?

TI: Lincoln High School. Today it's, (site is the) University of Portland. I had fond memories, but I've never gone back to the (reunions) for former students. But maybe one day I will.

AI: Well, now, high school is usually a time where young people are really getting to know themselves, thinking about who they are and what they, what you might be doing after graduation and becoming an adult. Did you have any plans or thoughts or ideas, what you might want to do after graduation?

TI: At that point, I didn't. It's only after I went to Lewis & Clark College in Portland that it started to shape.

AI: So that came later?

TI: Yeah.

AI: Well, also during high school years, often questions come up about, for young people about identity. And I'm wondering, how did you think of yourself at that time, or how did you feel as far as being Japanese, being American?

TI: To me it felt comfortable being Japanese, and I also knew I was an American. But it was predominantly being Japanese. Then, of course, community, Japanese school, and church are all Japanese, and it felt, a real sense of comfort being Japanese.

AI: Tell me about discrimination in the wider society, living in Portland. Were there some places that you knew that you couldn't go, or what was that like?

TI: Because it was all centered around, after school, elementary school, high school, going right to Japanese school, coming back, and then eating and studying. That was it. And on Sundays, it was church, day and night. So it was a very protective cocoon, experience. Venturing out other than to a five-cent movie, that was the extent of my getting into the broader American community.

AI: When you went to the movies, do you recall any seating segregation there?

TI: No. This was a cheapest movie house. [Laughs] So five cents, I'd get that five cents from my dad, and we'd go to this great movie, cowboy shows or these adventure serials.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

AI: Now, you were a senior in high school, in the fall of 1941?

TI: Yeah.

AI: And of course, then in December, 1941, that's when the bombing of Pearl Harbor happened on December 7th. Can you tell me what you remember about that day?

TI: Yeah, I heard the radio, and we were very dependent on the radio. It was Sunday, so just before church. And it was, it was a shock that this, this is happening, war was happening. And, (attended) meetings at church and then a series of meetings afterwards. Conditions were very uncertain of, rumors continuing about what may or may not occur. And so the comfort zone was church to hear what's the latest rumor and what we needed to do. But I remember in high school, suddenly it was called for, and the president of the United States would speak. So there was an assembly, and Kiyo Yamamoto and I, we sat together right in the middle of the auditorium. And when President Roosevelt declared war, and it felt really uncomfortable. I don't know about Kiyo. I don't remember him doing it, but I did. I slouched down so I wouldn't be so visible. I felt ashamed. I felt as though our fellow students were looking at us, and we were the enemy. So it was tough.

AI: Did anyone actually say anything to you negative or blaming or accusing or...?

TI: No. I don't remember that, but I felt very uncomfortable throughout the whole (time at Lincoln High School.) Till we were put away. So...

AI: Do you recall any conversations with your family, your brothers and sister, or your folks about what might happen? You mentioned that there were a lot of rumors.

TI: Yeah. Well, the only place that we could really socialize was the church, where we could converse. Other groups were discouraged from gathering together. For me, it was very limited exposure other than the church, where we came to talk about what the latest rumor was and what we should be doing or should not be doing. And so I felt just prior to the war, importance of keeping track of information, so I used to clip newspapers and make scrapbooks. And I kept that up ever since, collecting things.

AI: So it sounds like at that time, you were very aware of what was coming out in the newspapers. You were reading the newspaper all the time.

TI: Yeah. Yeah, I used to keep a diary. I started a diary from December 7th, and all through camp, I just wanted to capture that feeling. And, would you like me to read from the...

AI: Yes.

TI: ...the diary?

AI: In fact, I would.

TI: This is on December 8th, my diary. "This is one day I will remember: the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, when all the Nisei students at Lincoln High School went to school wondering what other students would do toward us. The first period was held in the auditorium. President Roosevelt spoke to the nation. I sat with Kiyo Yamamoto, and myself, and Mas Fujiwara in the middle of auditorium, listening to the President declare war against Japan. I remember slouching in the chair, and I felt very uncomfortable." I, reflecting back, I just felt that I wasn't a citizen of this country. And that really made me angry and sad that I was deceived, I wasn't feeling like a citizen. The Bill of Rights was incidental because I was seen as a "Jap," just the same as the enemy. During the war, theme song was "God Bless America," and I had a hard time singing that song because I was saying, "God bless America for puttin' us away," or for mistreating us. And so I didn't sing that with gusto at all, like all the rest of the people (who loved singing that song).

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

<Begin Segment 9>

AI: Well, in fact, you did write in your diary also about getting ready to leave Portland...

TI: Yeah.

AI: ...when the news came out that, not just rumors anymore, but that you, the Japanese and Japanese Americans were actually going to be removed...

TI: Yes.

AI: ...and so-called "evacuated." Well, can you tell me about the first procedures? I guess every family had to register...

TI: Yes.

AI: ...beforehand? And what was entailed there?

TI: Well, chaos, request was made for volunteers to help set the place up. So naturally I volunteered, as I always did, and then, I didn't know that the whole family had to go at the same time, though. But we did. And once I got in, there was, I found a telephone that was still working. So I called some of my friends, saying, "Bring more stuff" -- [laughs] -- because we could only bring what we could carry. So I was big enough so I could carry a duffel bag full of stuff. But it was, it was confusion about what to bring, what not to bring because we didn't know where we were going.

AI: Do you recall anything about what you did finally decide to bring?

TI: Well, my diary, empty diary, and that's the only saving thing I brought with me because I couldn't bring the scrapbooks. [Laughs]

AI: What did you and your family do with all your belongings in your house?

TI: We were fortunate. We had a Filipino husband and a Caucasian wife staying at our place, the front room, so we asked them to take care of the apartment. So they did. So we had one small room we put our stuff in, and so it wasn't disturbed. So we were very fortunate to be able to come back to that house and start life again in Portland.

AI: Later on.

TI: Yeah.

AI: But during this time of having to register your family, and -- you received a number, that's when you received a number?

TI: Yes, 15015, and my understanding was, Portland area is 1500 series. And I was the fifteenth person to sign up. And so I was given responsibility managing all the dairy products. As a high school student, I had no concept of -- [laughs] -- counting (and distributing) the amount of milk we had, and cheese and butter, (and) eggs.

AI: And that was at the assembly center?

TI: Yeah, 'cause I volunteered for that, too. So I was lucky. I got $12 a month on that one.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

AI: Now, you had an entry in your diary from early May, and I wanted to ask you to read this one.

TI: Okay, sure. "May 2, 1942. Our family, one of first entering the north Portland WCCA Assembly Center. Sad story for each evacuee. Started work dishwashing. Our picture in the front page of the Oregonian newspaper. The family along with other persons of Japanese ancestry moved into the North Portland War Civilian Control Administration camp. Since I had volunteered to help, the whole family had to be one of the early arrivals. My family arrived with new hopes and thoughts. I started to work as soon as I got there. Mom got a little carsick, but she is feeling better now. The camp seems very big and empty yet. I got to eat about 6 p.m. I was pretty hungry after volunteering throughout the day. We were one of the first families into the camp, and I had a queer feeling, having soldiers guarding us all around the camp."

So, it was very chaotic -- people coming in and trying to find their little cubbyhole, place to stay. But because I was involved in helping, it wasn't as bad. It was exciting, having the responsibility to manage. And, 'cause all the Isseis, they were labeled as enemy aliens, were not given a position of work responsibility. So the younger Niseis took over that kind of role.

AI: So for you and your family, it was you, your two brothers and sister, your mother and father, and were you all kept together in one living space?

TI: Yes. Uh-huh.

AI: What was your living space there like?

TI: Well, with six beds, that was about it. There wasn't that much space other than that. And these were pigpens area prior to us coming in. They boarded up the floor and put up a six foot high plywood barriers, like a room. But it's open, so you can hear people coughing or talking or crying or what-have-you, and as you walked down the hallway toward the latrine, (was) really noisy. But you kind of resigned yourself to what's there. And I don't recall complaining about the hardship, because that's another value our parents taught was to suffer is noble, yeah. And we got to suffer. I had to get up at around six o'clock to set up the milk. So it wasn't long before I knew what I was doing. But at that time, I never knew about bartering, you know, try to get more -- [laughs] -- because I had real nice items to barter, but I was really strict, right by the rules, kept track of things, and I enjoyed that responsibility.

AI: So your responsibility was distributing all these dairy products...

TI: Yeah.

AI: ...for the entire assembly center...

TI: Yes, uh-huh.

AI: make sure that every area got its share of dairy foods.

TI: Yeah. It was a great big dining room area. And there was shifts of people coming in to eat and leaving. So I maintained the management of those dairy products.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

AI: Well, now you mentioned that your living area was built on a pigpen.

TI: Yes.

AI: And that's because the assembly center was actually on grounds of the...

TI: Livestock exposition grounds. So they also had pigpens, cattle pens. And even when they covered it with wood, it smelled. And it was people that got horse stalls who had the worst conditions because the flies were so thick there and smelly. And they whitewashed the sideboards, but it was still bad.

AI: So you were literally in these animal stall areas or pen areas...

TI: Yeah.

AI: ...and you had guards guarding you. No wonder you had a "queer feeling," as you said in your diary.

TI: Yeah. And then one time I was outside, and a lot of the kitchen help had white (clothing) -- cooks had white shirt and pants, right by the fence. And it seemed to me, one of the workers leaned against the fence. And then he was shot, and I saw blood just squirting out like that. But they never reported that. I've never seen any report on that. But that's the only time we saw something where you have a trigger-happy soldier getting too serious about their job... but it was never reported in the camp paper or any kind of record.

AI: Do you recall having any conversation with anybody about that incident?

TI: No. No. It's just that, seeing that, especially with the white outfit on and blood squirting. And they said, "Well, stay away from the -- " well, they said, "You should stay away from the fence." I knew those soldiers were scared. That incident stayed me with me till much later. There were other incidents where (we) were picketing at Sea-Tac Airport and having the police from the county area, small towns trying to deal with us protesters. And I could just see the scare, faces, so I didn't push my luck with them, the same feeling was there. But I never, 'course, talked to any soldiers in the camp.

AI: That must have been a really scary incident.

TI: Yeah. Yeah, it was. But it was just one of many in the conditions that occurred, and we learned how to adapt to and certainly not complain about it. So that, it's amazing how that training from our parents and schoolteachers really taught us how we should behave.

AI: You mentioned the camp newspaper. So even in the assembly center, you had a newspaper or newsletter that was coming out?

TI: Oh, yes. Yes. I kept a lot of those papers -- [laughs] -- 'cause it was just part of my rat trap, and thinking it would be interesting later, perhaps, if I kept such information. And our (Portland) camp newspaper, called Evacuzette, and, well done. The artwork, time people put into it.

AI: But it sounds like the information that was allowed into the newspaper was limited, since this shooting incident, for example...

TI: Yeah.

AI: ...wasn't reported.

TI: Yeah. And I understood that the reporters were, the Nisei reporters, were sort of censored on stuff they could print, so that could have been part of that.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

AI: Well now at some point it, I think your diary mentioned in -- yes, in August of 1942, you mentioned in your diary that the newspaper, Evacuzette, said that some people would be going on to a permanent camp in Wyoming, and some would be going on to Idaho. What kind of information did you get about where you and your family would be heading?

TI: We didn't know. There were rumors of either we might go to Wyoming, we might go to Idaho. So that, I felt very uncomfortable. And then many of the people from Washington who I got to know were definitely going to Wyoming. We had to split our short-term friendship that we developed, it was just before the war, November, there was a Young People's Christian Conference in Seattle, the first time I traveled that distance with this Christian conference for Japanese. And so we had Saint Peter's (Episcopal) Church or (Japanese) Baptist church, Congregational church, Methodist church, which were all Japanese-centered churches, get together and had a great time. So in Portland, I met some of the people from Washington, and later, in Idaho, I met others. One thing that camp (experience) forced us to do is to have one federated Christian church, rather than (divided) by denominations. And that felt good, so like going to that conference in Seattle, that we were all one. Tragically, after the war, we split up again like all other churches and have the artificial (denominational) barriers.

AI: I'd like to go back a little bit in time to that November and the Young People's Conference in Seattle. Can you tell me a little bit about that? I heard that it was quite a large gathering.

TI: Yes, it was quite large. And like conferences are, lot of fun, you build short-term friendships. So, because church life experience was so dominant in my life, it was very meaningful for me to come to the big city of Seattle, and make more friends and planning for future conferences. So it was great.

AI: Let's see, that was called YPPC?

TI: Yeah. Young People's Christian Conference.

AI: YP...


AI: ...CC. I'm sorry.

TI: Yeah.

AI: And had you traveled outside of Portland before going to that conference?

TI: No. No, that was my first big experience. And that made it all the more special, (and) exciting. My parents didn't have a car because they were working all the time. So it was public transportation primarily, and once in a while riding in a car. But, that was quite seldom that we (did) that.

AI: So that was a really special trip.

TI: Oh, yes. Just riding on a bus that long.

AI: And then, taking you back to the assembly center, the North Portland Assembly Center, then that's where you mentioned that you were reunited with some of the friends...

TI: Yes.

AI: had made at that conference.

TI: So I built, renewed, new friendships. And then in camp, a lot of us young people had a barrack that was used for movies and set up everything. So we had to do everything. And so we felt a part of a church that way. So I, I felt, well based on my past Portland experience and the church life experience, it just made it much larger in the camp.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

AI: Well, we're continuing on with our interview with Tsuguo Ikeda. And I wanted to take you back for a brief time, back to that incident at the assembly center that you mentioned about the shooting.

TI: Yes.

AI: Can you tell me what you recall about that time, that day, what, or when that happened?

TI: Well, it was a break from work, outside of the dining hall, room area. And, just being outside, enjoying the sunshine and relaxing, talking, conversing with others. And I recall very distinctly the cooks in a white coat, jacket and pants were maybe 20 feet away. And all of a sudden I heard a shot, and then I saw that one of the cooks was shot, because blood was coming out. But no record was made of this publicly or otherwise, and I never heard anything reported in the camp newspaper or anything else. It was something we didn't speak about, you know. But it really showed how dangerous it could be if you got right close to the fence. They told us to stay so many feet away from the fence, and that the soldier that fired could have been right legally, saying, "Okay, the person was leaning against the fence." but he wasn't doing anything, trying to run away. And so, but when you have, I'm assuming soldiers who were not used to us or scared of us, could say, they could be trigger-happy. And it was just too bad it happened.

AI: Do you recall hearing any kind of warning shout...

TI: No.

AI: ...from the guard?

TI: Not at all.

AI: And what were people's reactions when that happened?

TI: Well, we were scared. We didn't know what to do, actually. And actually I haven't ever really spoken about this with anyone else. Usually incident of this sort happens it would be in our camp newspaper, but it wasn't in there. But I've heard that everything that was printed like that had to be censored, so it could have been cut out. But I've read out of books, and there's no mention of anyone being killed, that time, so...

AI: Do you remember what happened immediately then after the shooting? Was there any medical care or...

TI: No, no. I think, I think I might have taken off, scared, just left. And so I, I really have no idea what happened to that person.

AI: And later on in, as life continued in the assembly center and there was no mention in the camp newspaper, and no one ever talked about it and you didn't hear about it, how did that leave you feeling?

TI: Well, it's part of the camp experience. The stuff that you go through, you just learn how to handle it and not complain about it, raise questions about it at all, but to obey. So that's what we did. We were very obedient as we were taught to be by our parents.

AI: Did that shooting incident leave you with any feeling that, that that might happen to you if you didn't obey?

TI: Yeah. Oh, yes. That was very loud and clear, that there's certain limits that you shouldn't do. And later in life I didn't keep it, those same values. But I felt during the camp experience, we really had to be serious about staying away from the fences. Although in Minidoka, we were allowed to go out to pick sagebrush for decorative purposes. So those particular soldiers didn't seem to be that uptight about it.

AI: But at that time at the assembly center, it was a very serious situation?

TI: Yeah. It was such a new experience for everybody including the soldiers, that -- but we felt helpless, of course. What could we really do? So...

AI: So even with something as serious as a man being killed, you felt you couldn't do anything?

TI: Yeah, felt powerless and just accepted it, that it happened. And I feel that's kind of resignation attitude, helped us, our cultural values, helped us to deal with the harshness of the living conditions. And because we were taught the better you're able to deal with hardship, the better person you are. So I remember in Minidoka, especially in the wintertime, it was either raining all the time, it was just mud all over, sloshing through and sloshing into the classroom or the bitter cold, snow, 10 or 15 degrees below zero, and just walking through that to get to where you want to go. And felt a sense of pride of being tough, being a man. And with that kind of attitude, it helped adjustment, rather than just complain about it.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

AI: Let's turn to Camp Minidoka now. This was a permanent War Relocation Authority camp located in Idaho. And it was in September of 1942 that you and your family left the assembly center in North Portland and went to Idaho. Do you recall anything about the trip itself?

TI: Yes. It was an old train, and we had to keep the shades down. It was hot. And it was a long trip, so we were really exhausted. And it was very late at night when we finally arrived at Minidoka, and strange place. They had some lights up, and people were helping us to get to the block, (our new residence), block 31-11E. It was our cabin unit. And oh, gee, it was a shock that you're just so tired, you didn't know where you were, and try and get the mattress filled with straw, initially, and sleep on it. And the place was dusty all the time. They used green lumber to build these barracks, and it shrunk in the heat of the Idaho sun. And so the dust went through (the walls) all the time. So having to live with that dusty, windy place, oh it made it lot tougher, (living in Idaho). You didn't know where you were 'cause it was so dark. And we found our barrack, and through our exhaustion we just slept.

AI: Let me ask you to read again from your diary.

TI: This is September 10, 1942. "My family and myself arrived in Minidoka 8:30 p.m., tired, hungry, with many problems and worries. Didn't meet anybody yet. I still can feel the rocking of the train. Met a lot of old friends who were busboys in North Portland WCCA who were now temporary cooks or assistants. After dinner in Mess 31, which I ate in a hurry, I went with Hank and Tosh to a dance sponsored by the Portland group. Old friends there. Had a tough time finding my way back to my barrack with no lights." So it was, right away, I loved to dance. And so we (were), fortunately there was a welcome get-together put on by fellow Portland people, and that was enjoyable, comforting in a strange place to be with friends even though it was a little bit rough.

AI: Well, in (August) 1942, you would have been eighteen years old.

TI: Yeah.

AI: So you were at a time when normally, an older teenager, you would have been socializing. You would have been finishing up your senior year in high school, but your senior year in high school was interrupted, and you never graduated from Lincoln High School. Instead you went to the assembly camp, assembly center, and then here you were in Minidoka.

TI: Yeah. It was quite a unique experience. We established a high school with class colors, song, you know, all the trimmings as though you were in a regular high school, except in a camp. And so again, opportunity to be involved really appealed to me. I just loved it. And I remember one classroom, English teacher was talking about democracy, and we really booed her. She never talked about democracy again, because we weren't being treated like persons who lived in a democracy. But it was cold, and you had to walk such distance in the cold and slush. But that was all part of living like a pioneer in a way. And we had very little equipment, so our science classes were a farce. We used the tubs in the washroom. And I don't know what we actually ended up doing, but we didn't have much textbooks either. So, somehow we graduated. [Laughs]

AI: Well, now tell me more about this teacher who was speaking about democracy and your reaction. I'm surprised that, to hear that you say that she was booed because in so many ways, you and the other Nisei were very polite, very...

TI: Yes.

AI: ...obedient. Tell me about that incident.

TI: Well, I think down deep we felt embittered. So when she was putting up this farce that this was a democracy, it was just too much, and it was a spontaneous reaction. It's unusual reaction when Niseis do -- at that time, to be saying such a negative thing back to the teacher, which usually we respected. But I know that after that, she never raised that issue of democratic country or democratic values. So underneath myself, my regimented attitude, behavior, I was still willing to let the persons know how I felt and others felt.

AI: Yes. So even though you, your behavior was perhaps following the rules and toeing the line, you still had -- you were thinking within yourselves?

TI: Yeah. And I felt comfort that everybody else was with me too. [Laughs] We were being disobedient together for a good reason. And that forewarned me in the future how I behaved, but anyway, I was learning.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

AI: Well, I'd like to ask you also about the early part, that, your early days in Minidoka. You were there for really only a short time, and then you signed up to go out and do farm labor.

TI: Yeah.

AI: And I, I had a --

TI: Actually when they asked for volunteers to the sugar beet farm, I was first to say, "Okay." [Laughs] I was ready to go.

AI: That was September 17th, that -- and let me ask you to read this short excerpt from your diary.

TI: This was September 17, 1942. "I signed up to go to sugar beet picking with Kanaya, Sakakibara, Fujihara. Portland-only dance after Seattle-only. Worst dust storm so far, cooler yet. Stove brought in. Table added to room." Table. We had scrap lumber. "Worst dust storm so far." [Laughs] There was going to be many more.

So I got a group of friends from Portland church to go sugar beet topping. And so we went together, six of us. We lived in (a shack), and cooked our own meat, took turns. I remember one day -- in order to get the food, you had to go to town and get a ride from the owner. And we ended up having, just had ketchup and these little macaroni noodles. So we had a great dinner, cooking just those two for our main meal. And so, so we suffered, and didn't have much to eat, cold. One time I still remember was in November, it was snowing all the time, and it was cold. And the beet tops were just frozen to the ground, but the owner told us to get out there and still work. So like obedient workers, we went out there. And it got so impossible, that finally the owner said we could quit.

One incident I remember, I went to Filer, I believe, was the town, very small town, couple blocks long as far as sidewalk goes. As soon as I got into town, I ran a block up and down, the hard concrete sidewalk. I missed that sidewalk in that short time being incarcerated, or rolling on the grass. There was a small lawn there. We had no grass, of course, in the camp. That really taught me that even though it was a short duration, (through) deprivation, (you can miss) simple things you miss. You don't appreciate till you miss it. And later on in life when I used to volunteer to meet with the minority inmates in Monroe Reformatory, (and) I could understand being locked up and not seeing the valley or the scenery. I could relate to that.

AI: Well, to get a, more of a flavor of that period, that fall of 1942 when you were doing the farm labor, I wanted to ask you to tell me a little bit more about sugar beet topping and then ask you to read this excerpt.

TI: Yes. All right.

AI: When you say "sugar beet topping," what does that involve?

TI: Well, the sugar beet's, literally, that big and heavy. And there's a hook against the knife. You hit it, pull it, and top it. Well, I, one time I went whack, and I clobbered my knee. [Laughs]

AI: Ow.

TI: So I was hurting a little bit for a while. So it's dangerous, you know, if you don't do it right, which I didn't. You had to work real fast, continue to work fast to cut it and top it and keep going. You have to pull it out of the ground with that hook. So you gotta whack, and pull it, and whack and cut the, top the top.

AI: And you were not really a farm boy.

TI: Oh, no, not at all.

AI: You had done summer berry picking, but...

TI: Yeah, but I was a little lightweight -- so I wasn't really a strong kind of person. So that was hard on me physically, but kept at it, regardless. We were just stiff as a board, after each night, but went right back out there again.

AI: Let me ask you to read this.

TI: Yes. This was October 3, 1942. "Today we picked eight carloads of sugar beets. Across the field, we found some Niseis from the Manzanar camp picking sugar beets. We got home that night at 6:15 from work, cooked, gave our bodies a nice scrubbing, and changed our clothes, washed dishes. That night we all went to Rupert, Idaho, and saw, It Happened in Flat Bush, with Lloyd Nolan and Overland Deadwood. I sure was self-conscious in the theater. We couldn't find a place to eat, so we bought a fifty-cent pop and four loaves of bread, food that night."

AI: Now, when you say that you couldn't find a place to eat, you were in a town.

TI: Yeah.

AI: How come you couldn't...?

TI: Somehow we felt we weren't wanted, and so we just -- you could see the people's face looking at us. We were very sensitive. How they were seeing us, really as "Japs." So we took the easy way out rather than confronting it. Later I did confront, but at the time I didn't, and we took simply a bread and milk home, and that's what we had to eat. So it was a trying time, but we were together and suffered together and be able to manage it. And I didn't feel any sense of anger or shame or what-have-you of how we were living in the, what cramped quarters we had. We just took it. We accepted it. So, and I felt in reflection, we were better for it 'cause having anger and resentment and complain, we (would have) just destroyed ourselves.

AI: So you stayed active. You were part of a work team, a work crew...

TI: Yeah.

AI: ...that went out.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

AI: You had mentioned then, that when that beet topping work was over, you did go back to camp, to Minidoka about the end of October. And then I recall you had written in your diary that so many of the other young people were out also doing farm labor that the camp was relatively quiet.

TI: Yes. Felt kind of lonesome. And, waited till more of them came back. A huge amount of farm produce that the Niseis really saved for the Idaho area, let alone United States. But it was a huge amount that we were able to harvest.

AI: And when you say that that harvest was saved, can you tell me what you mean by that?

TI: Well, in our camp newspaper, this kind of information was, was mentioned. I don't know if I've seen any such recognition of our contribution to the war effort in the area newspapers, but at least we knew what we were doing. And so when the farmers needed help, there seemed to be no problem in getting volunteers to go out there. And we had contracts that we had to sign -- these are the conditions, the living conditions, the pay, and this sort of thing. And they weren't necessarily honest at times. But that's part of the experience we went through. We felt at that time, powerless to complain, so we just handled it, took it.

AI: So in other words, the contract that you signed for the labor agreement, the farmer or owner or contractor may have put down that you would have had certain living conditions or compensation?

TI: Yeah.

AI: But when you got there, you, that wasn't necessarily what you received.

TI: We were, in a way like slaves, working and had no real say to protest anything. So we managed it, and gave each other support, and then went way back to camp.

AI: So you were back in camp for really only a short time again, maybe about, in fact, less than a week, and when you found, I think you said in your diary that it was boring...

TI: Yeah.

AI: ...and you had no friends around, so you decided to sign up for another contract...

TI: Yeah.

AI: ...and went out again...

TI: Yeah.

AI: ...until, as you say, it got really cold, really...

TI: Yeah.

AI: ...frozen.

TI: So that friendship really meant a lot to me. So when we had that bonding experience was to go with another crew again. So even though it's rough work, lousy living conditions, poor food, it was worth getting out of the camp to be free, somewhat, somewhat we were free.

AI: While you were out doing the harvest work, what was happening to the rest of your family?

TI: I have no idea. [Laughs]

AI: They were...

TI: No. Actually what happened was my sister and older brother took off for Salt Lake City to go to complete their college education. And so my younger brother was there with Mother and Father in the camp.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

AI: Well, then that fall, or toward the end of that year of 1942, you also, that's when you mentioned that school started up again...

TI: Yeah.

AI: ...for you. And you were in your senior year, and you had many activities going on, it sounds like, in setting up that school in camp.

TI: Yes, I loved it. You know, apart from being in a concentration camp, just within it, we were able to find great joy because we were working together to create a school. And we were part of that because we had that opportunity to participate in developing school. And so, and I just loved socializing and organizing dances. Every block had a dance, and we were very competitive, decorating the dining room, very competitive with the decorating, trying to outperform each other. So it was very fascinating, creative ideas came with very little material. And so it was within the confines of the camp, we were able to make it livable.

AI: And also it sounds like you were very active. You mentioned earlier, in the church activities that developed at Minidoka.

TI: Yes.

AI: You mentioned that it was, there was a federated church?

TI: Yes.

AI: Can you tell me a more about that?

TI: Yeah. This was a federated Christian church, which meant that all the Protestant denomination churches had to be one, which I thought was better because I had friends who were Baptist or Presbyterians, Congregationalists. So this made it possible for us to worship together, fellowship together. And the church in each (region) they set aside one barrack, which was our social hall, recreation center. And so that meant Sunday morning, we'd go and sweep the floors and we -- because there'd be so much dust in it -- and set up the chairs and worship area. And so that pretty much, with fellowship later, pretty much covered the Sunday experience.

AI: Excuse me. Who served as your ministers? Were they Japanese or Japanese American , or were they visiting ministers?

TI: These were all Japanese Methodist ministers. There was Reverend Andrews from the Baptist Church in Seattle. He used to come out regularly to assist. But the core ministers that moved from Portland, Seattle, were the ministers in the camps.

AI: Well, I also wanted to ask you about some of your other activities there in camp because I know that you were so active. You mentioned the dances and then the fellowship activities. Didn't you do some singing also?

TI: Yes. I love to sing in a choir where my voice would be smothered. [Laughs] I wasn't really a singer, but I liked the experience of doing things together in choir. So I joined that. And I've continued that in churches through, where the standard of singing was low -- [laughs] -- so I was readily accepted.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

AI: Well, and then that Christmas of 1942, you were there in camp...

TI: Yep.

AI: ...Minidoka. Can you describe what that was like, having a Christmas in this situation?

TI: Well, the one thing was missing was presents. Really wasn't much to give each other. But we were able to decorate the dining hall, each dining hall decorated, crepe paper or other creative ideas. And we ended up having contests between dining halls, who had the best. So we were able to travel, look around. And, by the way, earlier in camp, I used to go with a group of kids that loved to eat. And we'd keep sampling every dining room. [Laughs] They finally figured this out, that they were running out of food, so they gave us coupons. And so we had to live, stay in our own, one dining room. That ended my excursion of eating so much. But it was, the joy was of Christmas was music and the decorations that were set up. And there were, I don't know of any -- I knew that some of the kids in elementary school were given Christmas gifts from people from different churches that donated, sent gifts, but for the teenagers, there was no gift exchange. But the thing was all of us were treated equally that way. We were all deprived of that, so, but we also had a pleasure of socializing and using our creative ideas and motivation to decorate, so we loved that competitiveness. So Christmas was great.

One of the songs we used to sing was "Don't Fence Me In." That was a special meaning, being in the camp, had a unique experience of don't fence me in. Keep, knock down those barbed wire fences so we could feel our senses. And I, just heard on cable TV just the other day, that song being sung, and it felt nostalgic.

AI: Well, for you, literally, you were fenced in.

TI: Yes, that's right. So we, so the title, "Don't Fence Me In" had a special meaning to me.

AI: Well, one thing I wanted to ask about also was, you were so active in many ways and keeping busy, doing, making the best of the situation. And at the same time, you were very serious in your faith, in your religion, in your closeness to the church. I'm wondering, were there ever any sermons or messages in church that had to do with being incarcerated or having to do with your situation there in camp?

TI: Yeah. I don't recall any of that sort. I think that would have been radical for a minister to be talking about rights, (our) minister's too well disciplined and stayed within limits. And of course, during those times, religious beliefs were very conservative (and) fundamental. So that's the way it was. I remember smoking, drinking, (and) even dancing in earlier period of time was a real awful thing to do. It was a big sin. But that was before we went to camp. [Laughs] We danced all the time.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

AI: Well, now that, you mentioned earlier how your older brother and sister had gone to Salt Lake City, and that they were attending college there. And it sounds like you were thinking also about perhaps getting out of camp. Tell me what your thinking was and did you...

TI: Well...

AI: ...were you thinking also of applying for college, and...?

TI: I sort of was, but I, I just didn't know what was possible. But the first thing I needed to do was go to Salt Lake City, which was a closed city. They had a population limit on how many Japanese Americans could go to any city. But if you had brother or sister or relatives, you could, so that's the reason why I was able to go and...

AI: Before you actually did go there, I saw something in your diary entries for early 1943 in January. And let me read this portion on -- I'm wondering if you have any recollection about this. "January 15, 1943. I received my questionnaire papers from Frances, Sumako and Joyce." And then about a week later, "January 21st. My questionnaire came back for a notary public." Do you recall what the questionnaire was about?

TI: That was that notorious two questions. This was actually a so-called "loyalty questionnaire." The first question was whether I'd be willing to fight for this country, which I said, "Yes." But the second question was, would I renounce my allegiance to the emperor of Japan? Well, if I'd said, "Yes" to that, then that would mean I had that allegiance. Now, if I said, "No," then I was being disloyal to this country. But at that time I felt my honest reaction was, "No." So I answered, "Yes-no." Those who said "no-no" were then later shipped to Tule Lake for the so-called "most dangerous disloyal persons." I just said, "No." And I asked a soldier that was in front of me, "What does that mean?" "Aw, it doesn't mean anything." That's what he said. [Laughs] Well in that case, I really (thought) I (couldn't) say 'yes' to that, so (I said) 'no.' And fortunately I wasn't (labeled) as a disloyal person. That was a very difficult (question), putting all of us to answer that questionnaire. And they had us, no matter which way you answered the question, we were in trouble.

And so I ended up trying to be as honest -- I definitely had no loyalty to the emperor of Japan, and so I will not foreswear any allegiance. But I would fight for this country. So that's how I ended up doing it. And at the time, those who said "no-no," I felt they were, at the time I (believed) they were being disloyal to America, even in camp. Again because of my training as a son, a young person, I need to obey my elders. And if the President of the United States (said) do certain thing, we would quickly say "yes" with a thoughtful response. It was one of the few times that I said "no." And thought I needed to say "no." But that wasn't, fortunately, held against me, so when I was able to go to Salt Lake City, I was cleared to go. And that way I could have board, and I can have room, 'cause I was sleeping with my brother, older brother, double bed and, while he was working going to school. And I worked for a full year in a bakery, next to a hot oven. Salt Lake City is (very) hot in the summer, but that (compounded the heat of the oven). And then I was able to get a scholarship from the Baptist Church to go to Ottawa University in Kansas. And...

AI: Oh, excuse me.

TI: ...JoJo was there.

AI: Before we skip ahead to that time...

TI: Yeah.

AI: ...which we will come to, I wanted to back up just a little bit, because I think this period that you just talked about of making a decision about how to answer on this so-called "loyalty questionnaire," that was a major decision for you and for many people.

TI: Yeah.

AI: I wanted to ask you, did you have any friends who did decide to say, "no-no"?

TI: No. No, most of us in the Minidoka camp were more obedient. [Laughs] We just accepted it. And so when we found others said, "no-no," we felt they were bad, they were not being an honorable student or (loyal Americans). We heard there were some people in Heart Mountain, who were objecting. And it was, it was a very difficult discussion among each other and among the parent group, and, as of what to do. And no one really knew the answer to that. What really should we do? I didn't know of any major incidents where there were a number in the Minidoka camp that were protesting this as they did in like Heart Mountain, (which were) more organized opposition. We were obedient on the whole. I'm guessing most of 'em said, "yes-yes," and I was one of a few that said, "yes-no." [Laughs]

AI: Well, now this was also a very immediate question for you personally because at (that) time, you were eighteen years old, so you were eligible for military service once the government decided to re-institute...

TI: At the time, they had. So...

AI: Right. There was no draft yet for the Nisei.

TI: Yeah. So that wasn't the option, the probability of happening. But it just, it was tough to, with all the training I had to obey my elders or leaders to, to have the courage to say, "no." But yet I felt I couldn't say "yes" to that second question. And so as a result, I just said, I had no problem in saying, "I'll fight for this country."

AI: Well, in fact, in thinking about fighting for the United States, you wrote in your diary in early February, and I'll read it to you: "February 8, 1943. I guess I'll volunteer after I graduate from high school." And the next day, "February 9th. Tonight I went to hear Mr. Stafford" -- that's your principal at school in camp -- "speak about volunteer enlistment at Mess 35. A capacity crowd attended. It all came down to the point, for your own good, to volunteer." And it sounds like from that point on, there was quite a bit of discussion also about whether to volunteer for service or not.

TI: Yeah, yeah. It's interesting. Among camps, as I understand it, Minidoka had the highest proportion number who actually volunteered. Those like San Pedro, California, where there were, broader community was so rough on the Japanese Americans (and) their anger was much greater. So because we were treated fairly reasonably in Portland, Seattle area, the willingness to volunteer to the armed forces was greater. That's my, way I (saw) it, although I didn't volunteer myself. [Laughs]

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

AI: Let me ask you; as that month went on, the month of February, you also were thinking about this further, about volunteering in service, and ask you to read from your diary again.

TI: Yes. "February 26, 1943. I went to the meeting at Mess 28 to hear Mr. Stafford and Mr. Shaffer give their last plea for volunteer enlistment. Drum and bugle corps played for the occasion. That night I had a talk with Pop on this subject matter. I hope I've changed it a bit. 'Bout -- today about 6:30, the Bainbridge people came in from Tule Lake camp." So they had those Bainbridge people who had about a week notice to, to pack their belongings, Bainbridge, Washington, and were shipped on to Tule Lake. Because Tule Lake became the segregated camp for the most "disloyal," supposedly, internees, they were shipped to Seattle -- to the Minidoka camp.

I was surprised, in reflection, that those who were in the drum and bugle corps brought their instrument to camp. That was quite interesting. And they had their own uniforms they brought, they felt it important. And it's unusual that I had to talk to my dad about volunteering or not volunteering. But I ended up, thinking, "Well, I won't volunteer, and try to get out of the camp." And that's when I was able to get a special permit to go to Salt Lake City. And after a year's work there, got opportunity to a scholarship to go to Ottawa University in Kansas, where a couple of my friends were there, JoJo and Mas. [Laughs]

AI: Well, you've kind of skipped ahead over a lot of period of time here, and I did want to at least mention that you did eventually graduate from high school...

TI: Yes.

AI: camp.

TI: I, I did. [Laughs]

AI: And that was in Minidoka camp?

TI: Yes, uh-huh, on high school. We were able to get caps and gowns. (We) still had some semblance of civility. And, but I really don't know how much we really learned in camp other than learning how to handle difficulties, because there were very few books that could be used for training. But it was enough to go on to college with, so I'm grateful for that.

AI: Well, and now you had mentioned just earlier about your conversation with your father...

TI: Yeah.

AI: ...about volunteering for service or not. And I'm wondering, what, did your father or your mother express much opinion about that?

TI: Well, he, he wasn't encouraging me to volunteer. Let it happen (when you are drafted). So, 'cause he wasn't really strongly suggesting I volunteer. If he had said that, then I most likely would have volunteered because I wouldn't have disobeyed his wish. Going to Salt Lake, we had to change our address, notify the draft board. But more so when I went to Kansas, that draft board got a hold of me and sent me an invitation to join the army. So I had no choice but to go.

AI: Later on. Yes, later on.

TI: But I was, I got a notice from the navy, officer's training (in) Kansas City to invite me to attend. So my one misgiving was I didn't know how to swim. I thought being in the navy, it would be rough. [Laughs] When I reported to the officer, and he looked at me, he says, "Sorry, we don't take Japanese in our navy." So that ended that. Then I went on to Camp Fanin in Texas for basic (training).

AI: I'm going to ask you more about that in a little while.

TI: Okay.

AI: But before I do, can I take you back actually shortly before, just before you go to Salt Lake City. You went out to do farm labor one more time?

TI: Yeah.

AI: And it seems like there was an incident at that time. You didn't say too much about it in your diary, but you did write a little bit.

TI: Yeah. I'll try to. "August 5, 1943. Two days with weeding beans for this farmer, and we were fired. He paid the whites. We didn't get a lot more work." It was weeding beans, also weeding carrots. And it was awful work, back breaking work. And somehow the farmer didn't like what we were doing, but I feel we were doing a really responsible job. So he just used that excuse to terminate us, fire us. And then, and we knew the Caucasian workers were being paid, but again, we had no power. We didn't feel we had power, so we just accepted that.

AI: So that was a very direct experience of being treated completely differently from the --

TI: Yes. Well, others -- when I went to Ottawa... but is there another point you want to discuss?

AI: Right.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

AI: Well, so then after you finished up with the farm labor, you got an indefinite leave...

TI: Yeah.

AI: you mentioned, and you went to Salt Lake City. And what happened there when you first landed there?

TI: Well, I was staying in an apartment that's full of all Japanese (American) internees. And they were going to school. So there was a fellowship group there, but they were little older than me. They weren't the church-going type. [Laughs] So I found a Congregational church in town -- it was Japanese -- and joined it and had a great time there. And I had very limited relationship with the other residents in the hall there, because they were all university students and had different interests.

AI: And you mentioned that you got a job in a bakery.

TI: Yes, for a whole year. And it was tough, hot work.

AI: What was your work?

TI: Huh?

AI: What was your work there, your job?

TI: Well, worked right next to the big oven. Bread would be coming out in shelves, and the other worker would hit the steel table and the bread will slide out. And I'll grab with couple cloth (gloves), grab it and shove it on the rack. So (it was) hot from the heat (in the air), and the heat of the bread. I know each day I drank one quart of pop, and I'd wait till the break change to drink some more pop, I was so hot. And it didn't pay much. I don't recall how much it was. It wasn't much, but I was working. And my great joy was church, youth fellowship group, and find friendship and support. It felt real great to be out of the camp.

AI: Salt Lake City, as I understand, was also a big kind of a hub city where people going to and from the various camps would often come through town from Heart Mountain, Wyoming, camp or Minidoka or even from Topaz. So did you have many visitors coming through?

TI: No, no. They could only be in transit because you had to have a special permit to allow you to go places, so be all, obedient. I believe we all stuck by that rule. And 'course, once we got to a city, then we had to report where we were, so they had some control about where, what we were doing. Got permission to go on to Kansas, (and so the government knew) where we were.

AI: Well, in fact, in late 1943, you mentioned in your diary that in November, you got very sick. You had scarlet fever through Thanksgiving and into December?

TI: Yeah, yeah.

AI: And at that time, were you still living near your brother or...

TI: Yeah.

AI: ...with your brother?

TI: Yeah. Yeah.

AI: And then also during that time, I have a notation here, "JoJo wrote from Ottawa, Kansas, he is to become a minister."

TI: Yeah.

AI: And that's your old friend...

TI: Yeah.

AI: ...Sakakibara...

TI: Yeah.

AI: ...who you had gone out to do farm labor with.

TI: Yes.

AI: Well, and then, so at that point, you mentioned that you were able to go out to Kansas also.

TI: Yeah. And that's on partial scholarship. I was able to get there. And it was during wartime, there were only about ten male students, and it was a small school, maybe 150 female students. And so we got involved in a lot of activities and the choir, as usual. But there I had the first head-on experience of going to a barbershop and being rejected. And then I told my group about this, and we all prayed about how we can help that person. That changed our attitude. And again, it was a nice support group. (Before the war in Portland, I had the experience of not being served). You just sit there and wait, wait, wait. Everyone else is served. But that was one incident in Kansas, where I was one of the few Japanese Americans around. But they had pretty strong feelings about "Jap" and such.

AI: What about some of the Caucasian classmates there in Ottawa? How were the relationships with them?

TI: This was a Baptist school, so most of them are Baptist, close to the church, and they seemed to be more accepting of us. And there were about five of us that were Japanese Americans, and we got along quite well. And this was my first experience of playing basketball for a university. Sounds great, huh? But really because there were only ten males, I had a chance to be -- but I really wasn't good at basketball. But I had the luxury of sitting on the sidelines -- [laughs] -- waiting to be play, play basketball. But that's all bits of experience.

AI: Well, and also eventually it sounds like not only were you very active with your church fellowship activities there at college, but also social life. You also had social life and dating and dancing?

TI: Yes. Oh, yes. I just loved dancing. So you see it, there was a Japanese girl from Baker University in Kansas, and we used to have socializing in different campuses as well. It was good time. I enjoyed it very much.

AI: What about socializing with some of the Caucasian students?

TI: No. I never did. I didn't feel comfortable doing that. But I got enough socializing in youth fellowship group, that it didn't matter to me at that time. But it only lasted one semester because the army change of address called me and said, "You are now eligible for the draft."

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

AI: Well, we're continuing with Tsuguo Ikeda. And when we left off, you had just mentioned about being drafted into the U.S. armed services, and that was December of 1944. And you mentioned how you got an invitation from the navy recruitment office. But when you arrived, you were told that they would not accept you.

TI: Yeah. At that time, they didn't take Japanese Americans in the navy, and it was tough, not even in the army. So I had my basic training in Camp Fanin, Texas, and I was the only Japanese American there.

AI: And how were you treated?

TI: I thought pretty decently. Sergeant was just as rough to all of us, so, you know, as a soldier. And it was one incident, I had a hard time. In Texas, when it rains, it really rains. We were on night maneuvers. Real dark, you (couldn't) see much. You're just plowing through, and you come across a stream and you go on. Well, it was deep, and I went right in. [Laughs] And you (learned) how to hold that rifle up so it doesn't get wet. That's the only thing that was up... so I was pulled out of the water. And that night, we were out in the boondocks, and so I had all this wet clothing in the pup tent, and it was pretty cold, miserable. But that's just a great experience, having it. So treatment was pretty reasonable, I assume, as any other enlistee being trained. And so somehow the navy, the army had kept track of me because I (next) got this invitation to go to Military Intelligence Language School in Fort Snelling, (Minnesota).

AI: Before you got that notice, what did you think was going to happen to you? Did you think that you would eventually end up in the 442 with...?

TI: I had no idea they had a 442 at the time.

AI: Oh. You weren't aware of that?

TI: Yeah. But I didn't know what -- after basic training, what we would be doing. I just had to wait for the order to come, and the order was to go to Minnesota, so off I went. I didn't think I had any choice of saying "no" to that. There were so many of us Niseis that had been drafted into the Fort Snelling program, that (for) two months we stayed in these, we call 'em turkey farms. There were four men in a real small house -- it's not even a house. Had potbelly stove to keep us warm. And we used to go out and report out in the cold weather. Minnesota's very cold. Stand attention and go through certain (military procedures), and then go back in. Some soldiers had to do the job of keep stoking these fires. Fortunately, I didn't have that assignment. But because of my Japanese language school experience before, somehow it suggested I knew more Japanese than others, so they had us ranked from first class to twentieth class level. I was in class five, which they assigned. Myself, I would (have assigned myself to) nineteen or twenty. But somehow we graduated. We spent night and day, Saturdays, studying Japanese, writing it, reading it, speaking it. During that time, I joined the army choir. And then some of my friends were learning how to play the drums in the military band, so I said, "I'd like to try that." I tried, had that unique experience, but I'm not really a drummer. But I kind of faked it, I believe, and really enjoyed it. And then our school was transferred to Presidio of Monterey in California. And so we were the first class to graduate from MIS in Monterey, California. And we knew that the Caucasians, soldiers going to the same training got lieutenant ratings.

AI: They got lieutenant ratings...

TI: Yeah.

AI: ...after graduation from the Military Intelligence School?

TI: Nine months, yeah. And we got nothing, no degree. And they wanted us to volunteer for extra year because there wasn't enough time to ship us to Japan. So there was no promise of any major, sergeant, or recognition of our capacities. So I said, well, I figure there must have been about thirty of us who decided not to volunteer an extra year. And so we ended up for two months doing KP and cutting grass with a dull bayonet, picking up cigarette butts and just wasting two months. And I said, "I'll get to Japan my own way." And I did later. And went back to Portland.

AI: Now, that was 1946 that you graduated...

TI: Yeah.

AI: ...and then finished up your last two months in the service?

TI: Yeah.

AI: And then went back to Portland?

TI: Yeah.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

AI: And now between 1945 and 1946, then, the war had ended...

TI: Yeah.

AI: August of '45, and were your parents still in camp in Minidoka during that time while you were out at the Presidio?

TI: You know, I'm confused on that as to the steps. But as I recall, when we, before I got drafted, I went to Portland, and my younger brother had preceded us. And my mother was really frightened. You know, there were many rumors about people being hurt or talked (badly) to, being Japanese ancestry. But the workers in the restaurant were so gracious, it really soothed her uncertainty. My dad (got his job back as a janitor), too. At least they had that job, so I could live home and then go to school on the GI Bill. And...

AI: So you actually were back at your family home in Portland?

TI: Yes.

AI: Your mother and father were back there working in the restaurant again?

TI: Yes.

AI: And you were able to live there at home?

TI: Live at home, and get my board and room that way, and the GI Bill helped pay for (my tuition and books).

AI: Now, what colleges did you apply for, and what were you were planning to do at that point?

TI: I didn't know what I was going to do. But I, at that time, I, I don't know (much about) Lewis & Clark College, but tried it. It was a small college, and it was church-related, Presbyterian church, so I felt comfortable under those circumstances. And I had a great time there. I (was invited to join) a fraternity club.

I tried to join the choir, and Lewis & Clark (College), the department of music was a really strong (program). Well, I didn't know that at the time, (when) they asked me to meet with some faculty members if I was interested in joining the choir. I went in this room, and they had this grand piano and had four professors sitting there, and said, "Okay, can you sing us something?" [Laughs] I never sung solo in my life. And I was so embarrassed. I said, "I'm just (singing)." "Well, I'm not a singer," so (I excused myself). And so I left. So that was one college experience, that I didn't get involved in the choir. But I was elected to be yell king and had that great experience. And I felt very much at home at choir, and being of Japanese ancestry was no big problem at all. That issue never was raised. So...

AI: So even though it was very soon after the end of the war, and even though your mother had had some fears...

TI: Yeah.

AI: ...about the treatment you might get back home, it sounds like it was not bad.

TI: Yeah. And then my comfortableness being in church-related activities, I think also helped me to feel at home. And so when I had that kind of attitude, it helped to build that adjustment positively. So at the end of that year, school year when I got my degree, I knew I majored in sociology so human interaction study, and I thought, "Gee, what can I do? I love church work. I don't want to be a minister, but I like the organizing." So it sort of fell into social work was something of that order as I kind of conceived it. And I applied to the School of Social Work in Washington State University. (The) time I applied, had closed the school, (had) transferred it to the University of Washington. Because I was accepted at Washington State, they automatically accepted me at University of Washington.

AI: So, excuse me. So you had graduated with your bachelor's from Lewis & Clark in 1949. And then did you go directly on to...

TI: Yeah.

AI: work school...

TI: Yeah.

AI: ...that following fall?

TI: Fall, yeah. My GI Bill, that was a real nice support, financial support. And of course, costs were much lower then. And the major cost was board and room.

AI: So you came to Seattle, you were attending the University of Washington School of Social Work...

TI: Yeah. And then at that time I didn't have as much money, so I was a houseboy for one year and had board and room that way. And I went to School of Social Work first year. And second year, I became a resident advisor at University of Washington campus, which were army barracks. And so I was accepted there, too.

AI: But were there any other Japanese Americans there...

TI: No.

AI: that time?

TI: No. I didn't see any. And then, of course, in the dormitory, there weren't any.

AI: You were really the only Japanese American in the School of Social Work then, at that time?

TI: No, no. There was one other. Chiz Norton.

AI: What, did you have any concern at all about whether you would be able to find a job or whether you'd face discrimination after you got your degree?

TI: No. At that time, I was only focusing on getting through school. It was a real small school, and few students. But once you major, I was the first student they had where I went to case work, one-to-one training, and then group work. Actually, group work was what I really wanted to do. And so, so once I graduated, then I, I couldn't find work, of course, right away. So I heard you could make money going to a fish cannery.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

AI: You know, excuse me...

TI: Yeah.

AI: ...I wanted to ask you about while you were working on your thesis.

TI: Yeah.

AI: Now, could you tell me a little bit about that...

TI: Yeah.

AI: ...and your work there with, I think you had, were working with a group of young people?

TI: Yeah. The resurrected, reorganized Japanese Methodist Church, which is now Blaine Memorial Methodist Church. The minister had just come, a year earlier than me, I believe, and was reorganizing the church. And so I loved that work, organizing it. I ended up being the advisor to a college-age group. And they were called the Duzzers, Duz, does everything, soap commercial. And we had lived up to that name. We did many, many activities. We were up to fifty Niseis going to the University of Washington and having a great time in church. And the minister had to kick us out of the church at night so we'd go home. And we only had one car in the whole group. We were that poor. So we managed okay, taking the bus, walking. And based on that experience, Duzzer group, I worked my thesis on how it generated, and how to organize and the result of that involvement of people, which turned out to be successful. I had critics who said all we're doing is having fun. It's not Christian. [Laughs] The minister was supporting the kind of wonderful experiences we were having, so I could handle the criticism. And it ended up many of the current leaders are past members. So that positive experience really helped a great deal. So working, only place I could find work was being a mail carrier for a few months -- oh, I forgot to mention that after I graduated, I was ready to marry Sumi, who was a member of our college-age group. I was dead broke. So only other way was to go working in the salmon cannery. I took that option. And it was a very poor salmon season so we didn't make the big bucks that I was hoping for. But we made some money. And I was the only Japanese American in that group. Mostly all of them were Filipino Americans. We were treated well.

AI: That was the summer of 1951...

TI: Yeah.

AI: ...right after you got your MSW? What was that work like up at the cannery? That was in Alaska?

TI: Yeah, in a small cannery. When we worked, worked real hard, and I loved it. And they allowed us salt salmon to take back. And somehow or other the owner, manager thought we had taken some of his prize big fish, king salmon, and he got so angry he destroyed all the forty or fifty barrels of salted salmon. That was sad. Many of the people liked to gamble but I didn't. But I had brought with me about thirty Reader's Digest, so I started my own library -- [laughs] -- reading those books, magazines. But that was it. It was just work, work, work. We were just sitting around, waiting for the fish to come in. And that was enough to, when we got back, to get married and pay for the -- one cost item I remember was our reception, our, members of the Duzzer group made sandwiches and cookies. So total cost was $25. We stole ferns from Mercer Island and lined the pews -- [laughs] -- with flowers from Hawaii, where, my wife's sister sent us. Our minister let us use his car for our honeymoon.

I went to work temporarily for the post office, till I got a job at Neighborhood House to be a group worker, social worker. And I was there for two years working long hours. And I was the only male worker, and they had a lot of dances, and they had to have me as the (bouncer). The director didn't get involved in that at all, so I was it. I really worked late, many hours, and I was exhausted. And then when the personnel chair of Atlantic Street Center, who had also been a board member of Neighborhood House, told me there was an opening as director of Atlantic Street Center, would I be interested? "Sure." I started out at Neighborhood House with a salary of $3,200, which was pretty good money, I thought. [Laughs] And I knew I wasn't going into social work to get money, but then Atlantic Street Center was offering $3,600 a year salary, a major increase, in my estimation. So I said, "Boy, I want to get that job." The personnel committee asked me, "You know, there were hardly any Japanese Americans in this community, so how do you think you would handle, majority are Italian descent, and then a small portion are African Americans." All I could say (was), "I've done a lot of organizing, and I just feel I could do it." So they accepted that. So it wasn't a major barrier in getting that job.

AI: The Atlantic Street Center is, continues to be a very important nonprofit organization in Seattle today.

TI: Yeah.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

AI: But going back to that, to those years -- that would have been 1953 when you applied for that job as executive director -- what was Atlantic Street Center at that time as an organization?

TI: We were classed as a settlement house.

AI: What did that mean?

TI: Well, it meant people (who) lived around there, and related to the community with all its needs and trying to respond appropriately. I used to go to (Methodist) community center department's meetings. I (also) used to go to national Neighborhood House, Federation conferences. And they kept (adding) the (programs) we should be about. So we had preschool, senior citizens, troubled youth, (decentralized) program in a housing project, (urban renewal approaches, summer day camp programs with) a small staff. And just running after one program and another, and it was very exhausting. And I said to myself, "Why did I go to School of Social Work to do this?" There was no substance to it at all. There was no time for that. You were just skimming the surface. So I was fortunate that the board could approve, a radical idea I had was -- I'll use the analogy of a plate of water, water resources, thin, not much substance, and you pour the same content into a test tube. It (results in) tremendous depth to it. I felt we needed to do something more significant than just artificially helping people. So I thought (of a) radical idea (to think) that others could do as equal to what we were trying to do or better. So the housing project program we (successfully) demonstrated Rainier Vista Housing Project. (Was transferred to) Neighborhood House (whose) core (service) was in Yesler Terrace Housing Project. They were really the full-time (public housing program) specialists, not us. We were there at Rainier Vista for two years on a part-time basis. (With) a two-year demonstration from United Way. We believed Neighborhood House should, really should be doing it, so we transferred that program to them. Today they're in every housing project.

AI: The Neighborhood House is.

TI: Yeah. And then secondly, the "Creative Arts for Older Adults" program that we started at Atlantic Street Center. At that time, we were probably the only senior citizen program. (In) '59 the United Way at that time approved for the first time funding of senior services centers. We figured they were the experts in senior, not us, so we transferred (the crafts program to them). [Narr. note: Today, they have senior services and centers in Seattle neighborhoods and also in King County.] Our preschool program was downstairs at the center, and we found a facility only about three blocks away, Collins Play Field (which had) a field house, small one, that wasn't used during the school year when the preschool met. So we said, transfer them there. Take out all the happy noise out of the building. [Laughs] And then the urban renewal efforts, what little time I had, I used to visit the neighborhood and find out what was needed and that sort of thing, in the small business community. And we said south of Dearborn Street was our turf, north was (Jackson Street Community Council Federation). Jackson Street Community Council Federation was the community organization specialist. So we said, "You folks do that part for the whole neighborhood rather than just part of it." And they became later, the Central Area Community Council Federation, a city-wide federation. Our work with so-called average youths would be the one that would suffer. We had no services beyond what we were recommending to cut off. However, Washington Middle School was going to build a big gym and a play field (in two years). So there would be two-year lapse of service before that would be in operation. In the long haul, they could do a much more adequate job. So, what remained was a two-year demonstration project working with troubled youth.

AI: Working with troubled youth.

TI: Yeah. It's one of the earliest beginnings. We had a two-year study we used to call the Hard-to-Reach Youth Project. It became obvious to me that we were the "hard-to-reach agency project," not the youth. We didn't make ourselves available on the kids' terms. Anyway, I was able to get a supervisor from the School of Social Work, who was formerly, worked with the gangs in L.A. and a case worker from juvenile court, probation officer, and a caseworker from Children's Home Society. And then Ed Pratt -- who was later assassinated -- from the Urban League, head of Urban League. He was my, one of my part-time workers. He was group-work trained. So I had a mixed social work background of people. So we used to meet once a month for dinner for a staff meeting, because it was all evening work and weekend with this project. We had to (serve) the right group, young people that were messin' around at Meany Middle School, at that time a junior high school. When we offered our services to them, they were available under their terms. And we had a (specially funded) project for two years. We felt that's what we should be (focusing our total effort on serving youth in conflict, since) no one else is doing that.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

AI: Let me ask you more about this, because it sounds like this was really the beginning of a youth-focused service...

TI: Yeah.

AI: ...program, and also was it unusual for a social service agency to have a multiracial staff the way that you did?

TI: Yeah.

AI: Edwin Pratt was African American...

TI: Yeah.

AI:'re a Japanese American.

TI: Right.

AI: And then your other staff people?

TI: (My first full-time secretary was African American). Yeah, it was a program, volunteers, everyone was pretty well mixed all along. Those we served were also mixed. And seemed the right thing to do. So one of the things I believed in because it was a fact, that (we had a series of exceptional African American workers). And so I willingly accepted that reality, and I encouraged people to apply. [Narr. note: I accepted the fact that our workers would be in high demand, so the least I could do was make sure all workers would be better skilled as a result of working at the Atlantic Street Center. Every effort was made to share leadership roles. As a result, one year two of the top African Americans were offered much greater salaries, but they rejected the offers because of their opportunities for assuming leadership roles. They didn't believe other agencies could offer such access into leadership.]

AI: Your staff people?

TI: Yeah. Uh-huh. So I had a, a university student at the time, but Miss Barr was one of my workers in the housing project, and she later became head of Lincoln High School, also a dramatist, real good stage... voice was excellent. And I had, of course, I had Pratt, was the director of Urban League, and later Walt Huntley, who was, who worked at the center as a social worker, then became director of model cities program, [Ed. note: Narrator is referring to the Model City Program] which was very successful. So my expectation to the staff was, "You will be a much better person as a result of working at Atlantic Street Center, and getting you ready to go out into the community to work, too." So we were, developed a mentorship program early on. The, the national sponsor of the United Methodist Church was against what I was doing because all the other settlement houses were keeping the traditional route.

AI: So when you say "against what you were doing," you mean your decision to focus on the youth...

TI: Troubled youth. [Narr. note: Changing the agency from a multi-focus settlement house program to a single focus on troubled youth who were un-served.]

AI: ...needs and the troubled youth and services to them. And the other settlement houses had a broad range...

TI: Yeah.

AI: ...of services and programs. And so what happened when you had, came into conflict with them?

TI: Well, I wasn't appreciated very much, you know, from the national leadership. I knew that people can't appreciate, make radical change in an organization that's been existent from 1910, doing the same thing. But I really didn't think the agency should be just doing "happy time" program. It had to have more substance. So when I changed the direction of the agency and United Way was able to approve it, and national somewhat approve it grudgingly, at that time, I had two social workers and me. And then later, we were able to get one more. It was small, small staff. And after two years of sweating it out and trying to help these kids, I wondered, "There must be a better way to help these kids." So reading the literature and reading past research, found, conclusion I found was that the sloppier the evaluation, the greater probability of great success, and the more astute the research is, there'll probably be no success.

AI: You mean evaluation of the service program?

TI: Yeah. For any type, for delinquency across the United States.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

AI: And what kind of service program did you have at that time? You say it's for troubled youth, but what did you actually do with the youth?

TI: Well, we met with them. We (got) two buses, vans, and we'd transport the kids to the center or wherever they wanted to go. And so we made ourselves available to them, they were available to us. And without a doubt, they had some real problems.

AI: What kind of problems?

TI: Failing in school, disruptive behavior, and then actual criminal behavior as well. And becoming a pest to the community because they were, fight, beginning to fight in groups. And so they were creating attention to them, and so we were going to respond positively to them. Well, the general feeling was it wasn't helping these kids after two years sweating it. So we thought, sooner we learn from history the better. So that's when we did a national review of studies, efforts across the United States and found out, shockingly in my mind, only five studies ever done that were done well. Experimental control design and careful way of monitoring, processing the impact of it. Then I thought that the sooner we reviewed what we were doing, the better off everybody's going to be including our staff and the clients. So we applied to the National Institute of Mental Health, which was a premier research arm of the government, and got a small planning grant, "Social Group Work with Delinquents." And with that, we came up with a bigger proposal idea. And we submitted a proposal that was rejected. Then we revised it, and the national staff sent a visiting team to review our proposal. And when they do that, then there's a real special interest. So we got this (site visit) we had our research person on board. But the review panel was saying, "We like what the staff proposal service part is, but not the research part." The research person later said, "I think we can redo this, but keep it in there." The social work staff (told the researcher), "Sorry, we can't use you." (We) rewrote the (proposal) and it was approved. Then it was rejected because Congress for the first time limited the budget of the National Institute of Mental Health to the same level (of the previous year). They always increase it every year, but this one time Congress didn't. So that meant our proposal was not approved.

Well, we were very poor, and I kept calling this national director up and keeping him alert about what we were doing. I'd hired this social worker from Philadelphia. At that time, cost of the long-distance call -- [laughs] -- we were really poor. And this guy's lease for his furnishing was up. "What do we do?" I said, "Ship it." [Laughs] Well, and then I told the national director, "This is the pickle I'm in." He says, well he'll rethink our budget proposal. And I said, "I need to know as soon as possible." He says, "Okay. I'll get back to you." Same day, he called me back and said, "Can you handle $25,000?" I said, "No, I think around $50,000 would be closer, 'cause I need a half-time research director and a social worker." So he says, "Okay, you're in." So that was in, around September. Then he calls me up January, he says, "Ike, how much more money you want?" That was, you know, nobody asks that question. And I was wondering. So I says, "Well, can you give us the whole (amount of our original budget)?" He says, "Sure." Then I said, "Really, I don't think I can spend it, 'cause I know you can only spend up to, carry over $5,000 to the next fiscal year." He says, "No problem. You do it the way you want to do it next year." (By submitting how we would spend the funds the following year.) And so we got in. And so we got this five-year, ended up later as a seven-year study with a two year follow-up study. And we became one of the top (ten) studies in the nation. We developed the first computerized record system for social workers. (I) actually got criticism among social workers because I (used) numbers (which didn't express) feeling. (Using code number for) the hostile, aggressive (behavior) as number (two or) three. [Laughs] Because it was a computerized form or numbered form, you could total it up with a computer. And of course, in those days, the computer cards were used. It's a longer, but comparatively-speaking, shorter period of time than adding by hand. And we were able to calculate amount of service per group of eighteen kids per social worker, and the amount of service being given, type of service, type of problem, and just so on, and it's all printed out (in a short time so we eliminated one secretary position.)

AI: When was that approximately, that period of five to seven years that you were conducting this...

TI: '63, '62. One interesting thing that happened, a professor at School of Social Work at the University of Washington went to an international meeting (in Switzerland) on record-keeping. And ours was (used as a) case study. And he briefly talked to me and that was it. Because I was the president of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), I was invited to speak to the School of Social Work student body. And...

AI: Here in Seattle...

TI: Yeah.

AI: the University of Washington?

TI: (As) president (of NASW). I went to a meeting of the whole faculty and staff and students. I brought with me these five books, I mentioned (earlier). Each one ineffective, ineffective. (I read a quote from each research study which concluded.) So I told the students and faculty that you can't believe everything we've got here. You've got to question things. You've got to add your knowledge to it and contribute to the body of knowledge. I was never invited again, naturally. I felt I needed to be honest. I felt we needed to face up to the fact that, "I don't know" (and also) "we (didn't) know," except we (weren't) able to admit we (didn't) know. University professors, heads of research, heads of government, all (have) difficulty admitting this. I found tremendous strength in being able to admit I didn't know and to recognize that everyone else didn't know, but they couldn't admit it.

AI: So for example, in your field of working with youth...

TI: Yeah.

AI: ...who were in difficulty or had problems, in that field, admitting that there's a great deal that wasn't known?

TI: Yeah.

AI: And then taking action from there?

TI: Yeah. How can the institution change ways to accommodate the kids rather than expect the kids to accommodate themselves to fit the agency's standard of behavior. (This attitude) opened up more doors of creativity and strength to be different.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

AI: What do you think were some of the biggest differences between the way that you and your staff then at Atlantic Street Center were working with the youth, the biggest differences between how you did it and how other social service agencies were approaching youth?

TI: Well, you start with the assumption, I don't know. We don't know and we want to know. So we (were) no longer limited to the traditional things that we were taught to do. During Model (City Program) days, I was the vice-chairman, first vice-chairman (of the board). Boy you got citizen involvement (along with) chaos, so on. I was on the subcommittee that dealt with delinquent (youth) types of issues. And this one very outspoken person (who) continued to talk (so no business could be conducted) -- I've never seen it happen before -- (she) continued to talk to control the meeting agenda so that nothing could happen. And she just talk, talk, talk, literally talked so no one else could hear and nothing could be done. Well, I felt we needed to establish a residential care proposal. So I started with assumption, these kids are failing in school, they are failing in the home, and then they (did) certain antisocial activity, they were sent away (to) the institution which results in further alienation, failing further behind in school, and in the relationship with their parents. What (could) be done?

AI: So at that time, the typical response to a youth in trouble would be, put them in an institution and take them out of the community.

TI: Yeah. Yeah. So I felt differently -- that we need to help them here under these conditions, but with the level that the parents could handle it and the kids could handle it. That is, having a group home, two of them, right in the community so they'll continue with school, (the) same school. Six beds in each home will be provided if they want to come in and use it on a temporary basis. And they're all convicted of being delinquent. And so they (had) a lousy choice, either using our resource, alternative, or the institution. Secondly, they had to agree to come to the home, be open to participate in counseling, and the parents be willing as well, as a condition of service. If kids take, make use of positive experience, great. If they don't, tough. We'll offer it one time. Then we thought of an idea of having a group home so that the first month they're at our home five days a week, and two days (a weekend) they're home. And we (said) to the parent, "Can you handle each other?" (Initially) two days not too bad. [Laughs] (The) next month, three days home. Next month, four days at home, and next month, five days at home. So then within five months, they're home (full time). And in meantime, we work with the parents and the kids how to handle each other so they don't irritate each other too much and could tolerate (each other). We would be available later on outpatient basis, but no more inpatient. It was that sort of idea, just wasn't done. But according to the problem, (I) felt designing a system (to fit it) made sense.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

AI: Now, in this period of the (Model City Program) work and the funding was coming down from the federal government for model cities and (provided) time (to develop) this new kind of residential program...

TI: Yeah.

AI: ...this was all in the 1960s...

TI: Yeah.

AI: that decade. And backing up just a little bit, through the years that you had, your early years at Atlantic Street (Center) and the '50s and up into the '60s, this is also the time period of the Civil Rights movement developing.

TI: At the end, yeah.

AI: Can you tell me a little bit, did that, how did that affect you, you personally and your work?

TI: Well, I participated in things like the picketing at Sea-Tac Airport.

AI: Now, tell me about that. What was this about?

TI: Well, there was a group of Asians and blacks that were trying to get more job opportunities. They found the construction at the airport excluded minorities. So after many sessions, plan was to picket Sea-Tac Airport. So (we made a) big, 1 x 1 piece of wood with signs on it. (Some) young (white) kids that were there for trouble. In other words, they only carried the stick (without the sign), which was very intimidating. So those who didn't agree to take the sign -- me and (another) African American person, threw them all down the ramp. It's a wonder they didn't clobber us with that stick. But we just wanted to have it under more control. I saw police officers, small town officers who (seemed uncomfortable seeing) minorities. And as I walked the picket line and looked at the faces underneath the (plastic) guard, I just felt they were uneasy, they were scared. I wanted to see that we were orderly in this picketing. I only stayed there half a day.

AI: Well, how, now, what drew you into this situation in the first place? Was it through some of your church-related work?

TI: No, no, no. It was fellow community people. I thought it was appropriate to open up, opportunities and employment. So I was doing things at that time, certainly not social work. But confrontation like that, seemed very appropriate that we be involved, that I be involved. And during that time, Elmer Dixon, who was a founding head of Black Panther Party in Seattle. And at the time, I just didn't recognize he was a high school student. Well, anyway, a few years later, after graduating from Garfield, Elmer was at a workshop that I attended. He said, "Ike, can you let the Black Panther's program have their breakfast program at the center?" And it was September. And I said, "Let me, give me a week, I gotta think this out." And it was during the United Way Campaign. Here I strong-arm our staff, saying, "We're a United Way-funded agency. We all give, period." Elmer didn't (have financial resources and access to the Methodist Church to get money), I could write a letter and Methodist Church would give me money. I had a way to get my resources. Elmer didn't. He had to strong-arm Safeway stores to give "donated food."

AI: For the breakfast program?

TI: Yeah. Yeah. So I said, "If I was God, looking at Ike and looking at Elmer, there really (was no real) difference. We're using what talent we had to get what we need to do, hopefully some good work." So it occurred to me that we were both trying to do the best thing possible, but using different means, and I had no right to say "no" to Elmer. So I told the board and staff. They supported (welcoming the Black Panther Breakfast Program).

AI: They did?

TI: Oh, yeah.

AI: Well, now, I'm, this is just secondhand for me, but my understanding was that Black Panthers had a very radical image...

TI: Yeah.

AI: that time, and that some people were truly frightened of them...

TI: Yeah. Oh, yeah.

AI: a possibly violent organization.

TI: Yeah. They had, their house had wood slots for shooting. It was rough (for them). I felt that they were trying to help the kids have food. Their methodology was different than mine, but I was blessed in being able to go to school, and have other contacts. So that's why I couldn't rationalize myself out of it. I felt we were equals, in trying to help (these children who needed a substantial breakfast).

AI: And that's what you discussed with your staff and board?

TI: Yeah. Yeah. They backed me up. And so I told Elmer, "It's up to you what you do." And I always wondered why he didn't get me out. Because empowerment was the issue. Here was a Asian managing a black program. By that time, (the term "Black" was being used). I felt uncomfortable myself, because I had a radical self-empowerment, belief, and it was a blatant and negative practice that I was doing as an Asian American (manager). Many years later that I talked with Elmer. I said, "How come you didn't raise Cain (to) get me out?" And he says, no, he knew I was trying to do good for the community. I wasn't about to mess people up. So there was a trust relationship, unspoken, with the Black Panthers and him. [Narr. note: The FBI regularly visited the center, checking on the Black Panther Activities. I consistently told him to relax. The Panthers were not really that bad.]

One (Black Panther) couple were very good with the kids, and so a staff recommended, "Hey, let's hire these two in our group home project. They'd be good." So we did. And then after first year of funding, Model City (Program) had a heck of a time through the city to buy these two group homes. So Walt Huntley, the director of Model City (Program), says, "Ike, although you wanted one group home, can you handle two right now because money's available, we got to use it." So I said, "Okay." Well, they couldn't purchase a home. Two reporters from the Times got a hold of that and blasted the center -- misusing federal dollars, not serving any kids, buying frozen meat in Yakima. Sounded (suspicious but the price of the meats was low), it was a good price at the time. But anyway, the twelve beds, cost (was too) exorbitant. (They could not accept the fact that in a year's time, twenty-four boys would get our service). (With the continual negative news articles), the staff discussed this, and they felt there's no way you could fight it. So I told Walt Huntley, "Can you promise within a month we will buy those two homes?" He (said), "No, we can't." Says, "Well, then," the staff said, "We quit. Let's terminate. It's hurting your agency and you, Ike. And we'd rather quit." And these are (black) college students (who desperately needed funds to continue their education at the University).

AI: Now, I'm sorry. Why did they, why were they wanting to quit?

TI: Because the tirade in the newspaper kept coming, (requesting) congressional investigation. You name it, these (two) newspaper reporters were really working on it. [Narr. note: The reporters told me that they were attacking the city and not the center.]

AI: And what were these two staff people afraid of? What did they think might happen?

TI: What, what do you mean, "two staff"?

AI: The two, the staff people that wanted to quit.

TI: Oh, all of the staff. Six staff.

AI: Oh, all of them.

TI: Yeah. And these were African American students at the university, working part-time and going to school full-time. And they needed the money. In 1970, Boeing had cut staff by half. So jobs were even tighter, although they didn't have that much opportunity at Boeing at the time. They were that gracious toward me and to the agency. So I said, they wanted to quit right now, and I said, "No. You get one month severance pay." Then the Black Panther couple came up to me separately and said, "Ike, I think we're going to create some disturbance. If the reporters ever heard that we're paid staff on federal dollars, Atlantic Street Center, (and) you (would) be in hot water." Panthers were that thoughtful for my well-being. So I said, "I cannot accept that. You've been so thoughtful of me. I cannot accept your resignation. You get your one month pay and do what you need to do." And fortunately for me, I guess the newspaper didn't pick up the activity the following day. But it was (one of) the most thoughtful experience I have ever had, Black Panthers. (This) completes an unusual experience in the development of the agency.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 30>

AI: We're continuing with Tsuguo Ikeda, and you were just talking about how you developed your program and your staff, and that you had some new concepts about staffing and the so-called paraprofessional situation...

TI: Yeah.

AI: the, was that the late '60s, early '70s?

TI: Yes. Yes. During that time, the term "paraprofessional" was being used, career ladders were being expounded. But my impression of those kinds of activities were that paraprofessional teacher, paraprofessional health aide, you name it. I (believed), were not giving the full authority to them, which I felt was demeaning. It was, certainly it wasn't empowering at all. It was just rubbing it in that they were not professional. So we devised this group home project with the concept of, that they are preprofessionals, they were all university students going full-time and working half-time in this project. They would have the authority to develop the program from the African American perspective, young African American perspective, how to help their younger brothers and sisters. And so although I was a professional and another person was a professional social worker, the authority was given to the line staff. Then thirdly, they were called counselors rather than paraprofessionals. And so when you have a label, role definition, and compensation equal to a professional, you begin to institutionalize the sense of real respect for people with a different background. Because I come with the conclusion we don't know (how to be effective with troubled black youth, other) cultural aspect of African American. So that's how it was designed. And with this chaos experience with the newspapers, we had to terminate it, we didn't terminate the concept. I adapted it to (providing) outreach (service) only. (We) got funded from State Law and Justice Committee and did a brief, (three year) successful demonstration.

In the meantime, I (was) a member of the State Law and Justice Committee, found out each state was going to get a state plan on planning a delinquency prevention plan. I assumed other professionals with a certain degree and experience will say, "I know how." And I felt, "No, they (didn't)." It would be tragic plan (based on their assumption), whereas if you come with my unusual perspective that we didn't know how to plan delinquency, we didn't know how to prevent it, we didn't know how to rehabilitate either. Our (resulting) plan would be different. So we submitted our proposal from the Center, and we got ours funded (for three years). We were the only state in the nation where a private little agency did the state planning. And fortunately I believe strongly that limiting my understanding to my own profession was a major error. I needed to have a (broader) perspective. So I had met this Bernie Salazar on another (citizens committee on crime). He was a (structural) engineer from Boeing. And his skill as an engineer was mind blowing to me in how he worked out some plans as a builder of Boeing jet, they (identified) what the major components of the jet, the engine, the body, the wing, tail, and then they (kept) breaking it down. There's a systematic order. He applied (his skills) to the (work of our) committee, working on delinquency. I hired him part-time as my designing consultant. Then I hired a Boeing economist who helped Boeing reduce its work force by 50 percent (in 1978). He had a real sharp, unusual mind in thinking. I needed that perspective. (I involved) other engineers, social workers, nurses, (and) educators, you name it. Each, I felt, had some part of that truth (within each of us).

When our three-year project was approved, (and at the conclusion of the three-year project), it became most systematic planning model in United States. And I thought (of some other) different (ideas). I said, "What did the White House Conference for Children and Youth say in 1970, say in 1960? What did professional groups like National Council of Crime and Delinquency recommend? What did other groups, noted groups, say? Maybe we should learn from everyone and organize it so we could see which groups recommended what recommendation." So that's what we did. And I worked with each region in the state of Washington with a staff person in charge. I went to each regional law and justice committee, and they practically said, "We know what we want. We just need to have radios in our police car." Way back then they didn't have it. "That would solve our problems." So I said, "If you could look through this list, see what you have funded already and what other groups have recommended, (and see applicability) to your community. You're the only ones -- but look at the menu of recommendations all over the place. They rejected my offer. So was a radical idea (to learn) from (past) histories, (and) recommendations. I had total rejection (from) all these officials from different regions in the state of Washington. I accept the fact that people want to create their own plan, (with) idea off the top of their heads. [Narr. note: The inability to take advantage of many knowledgeable persons over many decades recommending solutions was very discouraging.]

I was selected to be on a national committee to develop standards and goals for juvenile justice and delinquency prevention. After about a year and a half or so, we had thirty-five consultants putting input from education point of view, justice point of view, rehabilitation point of view, you name it. It ended up to be a eight hundred-page document. I kept in touch with the national director of National Institute of Mental Health, and I said, "Why don't we have those few that had done a good job in researching and failed, (learn from those few exemplary efforts)?" So he says, "Well, Ike, why don't you try that out?" (and gave Ike opportunity for a) small grant on the West Coast. You pick four or five people and try it out." So we had that study and finally national said, "Okay. We like the idea," to write a book on how to do it, manage research in the community. That was done through the Jewish Board of Guardians, New York City. We met once a month, together a group of about eight of us conferred with each other and gradually the chapters took place.

So when you begin to see pieces like that, the role of the center being on the cutting edge, thinking, creating, developing, evaluating, I felt we were really doing the more respectful work for the center. And I kept it up. So it's been really satisfying work, hard work, but very challenging to be different and feeling comfortable being different. After a while you get used to it, but initially it's kind of rough because there are very few people that will listen to you. [Laughs] Well, that's par for the course. We were able to redo significant pieces, just like that seven-year study is one of the top ten studies of the nation during that time. We were able to keep the standard up that way. And fortunately I was able to meet with Bob Yamashita, Tacoma Community House, who was director (with a) similar kind of agency, (sponsored by the Methodist Church). I encouraged him to consider changing his community center approach to focus on something, and he chose Asian Americans and immigrants, refugees and (later) ended up in a brand new facility, big staff. He felt much better about what he was doing. It was worth his sweat, blood and tears. But I couldn't get any other, roughly a hundred (Methodist) centers across the United States to consider what I had done, but at least I challenged them, (but) no takers. [Laughs]

AI: Well, this is actually the beginning of a completely additional subject that we can discuss. But for now, let's take a break for now, and then we'll pick this up again later.

TI: Okay.

<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.