Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: George Yoshida Interview
Narrator: George Yoshida
Interviewers: Alice Ito (primary), John Pai (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: February 18, 2002
Densho ID: denshovh-ygeorge-01-0020

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AI: Do you recall anything about that day, what you were doing or what --

GY: Well, I was working with, same place with Lloyd. And he was singing away, working on setting up the stand there in the early morning. And as soon as we heard the news over the radio, I thought, golly, because I was very self-conscious, customers coming in and cars would drive by, and I think, oh, are they -- paranoia. A lot of paranoia on my part. This is true of most Niseis, too.

AI: How were you actually treated by the customers or --

GY: I think we had customers -- I don't recall any open hostility toward me, but it was all inside here. I didn't feel any open hostility. I didn't, I don't recall any experience like that. And in school, I don't know what happened. We must have gone to school. And another thing, too: there were Niseis already in the Army already because older Niseis were drafted in the Army. So we must have thought about that, too, especially -- well, I hadn't met Helen, yet, but there were others who were in the Army. But oh, though I wasn't concerned about them, but there was that problem, too. But the, as soon as war was declared and all of this happened, the demonization of Japanese started, boy.

And then there were organizations -- super, became superpatriots, and this was the, the reincarnation of the yellow peril bit, "Japs" kind of thing, "Japs." Every day. And there was cartoons about the horn-rimmed glasses and the buck-toothed "Japs" appeared. And eventually local agriculture groups thought, here, man, let's get rid of them now. And all kinds of legends were born in terms of who we were and what we were doing. And there were, I think -- there was, I should say, subsequent to the Pearl Harbor attack, a submarine attack on Santa Barbara somewhere, where maybe a couple of shots were lobbied, lobbed over into the coast. I think there was a stray balloon that was, drifted into Portland or Oregon somewhere with a bomb attached, which exploded, I think may have injured and killed maybe some family in some obscure place in Oregon. Well, anyway, these incidents added to the, all the different propaganda and the hysteria in the United States and just kept building and building.

And then the Japanese forces were very successful in their defeating this and that and moving. And, of course, war was declared by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The fleet, American fleet in U.S. harb -- Pearl Harbor was very much damaged, certainly had damage to the image of United States. Golly, here come, how come these Asians did such damage to us, kind of thing. And this business about the sneak attack was used over there. Of course, history, today we have different stories about why this all happened. It's kind of interesting in retrospect again. But at that time, anti-Japanese hysteria was so heightened that we became paranoid, too.

AI: Did you ever feel that you were in danger that someone might actually attack you or beat you up?

GY: Yeah, well, they were incidents that we heard about, especially in the farmlands, where there were attacks and people killed by marauders, I guess. And so we heard that through the grapevine. And then I'm sure we had our, several incidents of rocks being, rocks being thrown into shop windows, that -- certain kind of thing that we experienced lately because of the, of the September 11th, September 11th incident, the World Trade Fairs -- World Trade Centers that, both being damaged and actually demolished, I should say, anti-Arab sentiment, onslaught of anti-Arabic feelings and local response to that. Attacks over the weeks, suffering the same kind of things. It was a little bit more intense because with, in those days, because the whole country was into a state of shock and the need to overcome the enemy, the "Japs" kind of thing. And we were the, received the brunt of that kind of hysteria and propaganda.

AI: And then there were also the curfew restrictions and the travel restrictions --

GY: Yes, yes. That's true, too. And a matter of fact --

AI: Did those affect you or your family very much?

GY: Not as, not as directly. We had to close the shades and keep the lights dim. Getting back to the hysteria and propaganda, the radio was a very important part of our, our entertainment and there was a popular show. I'm not sure whether it was Jack Benny or some -- someone or other, but on one of the shows, there was a comedian, and he was from the, supposedly from the Ozark and sang some folk songs, and he played the bazooka, "bome-bome-bome" kind of thing. And he sang a song, a parody, and it was a love song, romantic ballad, I guess, "I'll get" -- "I can get along without you very well; of course, I can," dah-dah-dah-dah-dah. But changed, and then he changed that to -- instead of, "I can get along without you very well," he said, "I can get a lawn without you very well," because most of the gardeners were Japanese. [Laughs] And he sang that tune, and people laughed about that, yeah. And all these jokes about who we were and the kinds of foods we ate and, yeah. And there were some popular songs about going to war, and -- with reference to Japan and so forth. And so that really fit into, to our lives, too, affected our lives because there was all -- Japanese, anti-Japanese stuff, yeah.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2002 Densho. All Rights Reserved.