Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Mitsuye May Yamada - Joe Yasutake - Tosh Yasutake Interview
Narrators: Mitsuye May Yamada, Joe Yasutake, Tosh Yasutake
Interviewers: Alice Ito (primary), Jeni Yamada (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: October 8 & 9, 2002
Densho ID: denshovh-ymitsuye_g-01-0014

<Begin Segment 14>

AI: Well, and now at this age you were maybe in the third grade and Mike was in first grade?

MY: No, Mike was --

TY: Well, he must've been --

MY: -- he was so --

TY: Must have been, he must have been eight --

MY: Eight, nine, yeah.

TY: -- eight or nine and --

MY: And he, he really --

TY: --and so I was eight or seven. And so you were a year younger than that, so...

MY: Yeah. And I think that Mike was so -- he was very conscientious. I mean, he was very, he was very --

TY: Studious.

MY: -- very studious.

TY: Yeah.

MY: And he --

TY: He was a serious --

MY: -- he didn't want to be in the same class with us.

TY: He was a very serious student --

MY: But he skipped --

TY: -- and we weren't.

MY: Yeah, and she -- he skipped quite a few classes. And by the time we were in high school, he was ahead of us. He was where he was supposed to be. And then you and I were still in the same class, I think --

TY: Yeah, yeah.

MY: -- in high school. Yeah. But Mike was way ahead, and we -- he was a couple years ahead of us. But what he, he belonged, I think -- right? To --

TY: He was a quick learner, yeah.

MY: He was.

TY: Yeah.

MY: And he just didn't want to be stuck with the little kids --

TY: Yeah.

MY: -- anyway in the classroom than he, and so he was very conscien-, he was a very conscientious and sort of studious guy.

TY: Even in Japanese school, he was very conscientious.

MY: Yeah. That's true.

AI: When, when did you start Japanese school? At the same age you went to first grade or --

TY: When we moved to Beacon Hill, I think.

MY: Beacon Hill, yeah.

AI: And when was that again, moving to Beacon Hill? That would have been about --

MY: 1931.

TY: '32, '3-, well --

MY: '2? But he was born in '32.

TY: '32, so it must have been '3- --

MY: '1.

TY: '1. Well, he was --

MY: End of the year.

TY: The end of the year sometime. So it'd be either end of '31, '31 -- I mean '32 or beginning of '33? 1933 is when we moved there from --

MY: Oh, I see. I see. I was, I'm going backwards. Okay.

JY: Yeah, didn't you say that we moved there when I was like ten months old or something?

TY: Ten months old.

JY: So that would've been early '33.

MY: '33?

TY: Because Mrs. Merlino -- remember our neighbor?

JY: Uh-huh.

TY: Across the street from that Beacon Hill school -- I mean, the house?

JY: Uh-huh.

TY: She said that she distinctly remember Mother carrying you up that stairway to the house when we first moved in.

MY: When we first moved in, yeah.

TY: Yeah. So and --

MY: And then, and then the transition between being in a, in an all-Japanese neighborhood --

TY: Yeah, that was quite a change.

MY: -- and then moving to, to Beacon Hill. But, and then to Beacon Hill school, which was kind of a distance -- remember it was on the other side of the park, the Beacon Hill school?

TY: And that was quite a ways walk. Remember we used to walk there quite frequently.

MY: Yeah, and, and that school had a few Jap-, there were a few Japanese in that, on Beacon Hill at that time.

TY: Yeah.

MY: The Okudas, the Toribaros, and the Higanos, I think, and us. And --

TY: Well, my graduation --

MY: -- the Toribaros and the Higanos, the kids were older.

TY: Yeah.

MY: They were all a couple years ahead of us.

TY: Well, Norio, I think, was a year older than I was.

MY: Yeah, and then the Okudas -- you know, so I went to school with Nao and Bill, and Toyo. But --

TY: Well, you can tell by my graduation class that I had. Remember?

MY: That mostly --

TY: Eighth grade, yeah. That must be... oh, it must be --

JY: There was only one other kid who was not white.

TY: Fifty, about fifty-some odd students. I think there was --

MY: That was in Beacon --

TY: There was one or two.

MY: Beacon Hill school?

TY: Yeah.

MY: Yeah, so -- you know, I, I think the question was -- we were trying to figure out when -- whether or not we felt kind of strange having moved out of the Japanese area and, and going to school with almost totally white kids.

TY: Yeah.

MY: And I -- the thing is we, we couldn't think of -- we didn't, we kind of --

TY: Adjustment? You mean --

MY: Yeah, the adjustment.

TY: -- adjustment problem? No, I don't remember having --

MY: We didn't have any of that adjustment.

TY: I really don't remember having problems, myself.

MY: It seemed quite natural to me --

TY: Yeah.

MY: -- that, you know, to fit -- we just sort of fitted right in or whatever. And we didn't have any, very many problems at that school.

TY: Did Mike mention anything about having any problem when he started?

MY: In Beacon Hill school?

TY: Beacon Hill school.

MY: No. That, that's kind of interesting because when we went back -- remember? To the school -- now it's all boarded up, or they're using it as a community center or --

JY: Yeah, it's a community center.

TY: It's a, it's a Hispanic.

JY: It's a Hispanic, yeah --

MY: Hispanic?

TY: -- community center now, yes.

MY: So we walked over there and, and we kind of went in and walked around, and Mike was -- he remembers it quite vividly.

TY: Oh, I remember where the school -- nowadays, where the library was, and I remember where my homeroom was.

MY: And so did you recall from being physically in that place, having the sense of what it felt like going to that school that didn't have very many Japanese in it?

TY: No.

MY: Yeah, I don't either.

TY: No, I have really --

MY: That's really --

Jeni Yamada: Didn't you say the families in that, in that new community were more like the families that the -- you know, Grandma and Grandpa would be more comfortable around, that they were more professional?

MY: Yeah. They're not exactly professional people, but they were...

TY: Who?

MY: The neighborhood, like Merlinos, the next-door neighbor. The Greek family who lived -- the Greek family --

TY: The Greek family who lived next door.

MY: Yeah.

TY: And I don't know what they did.

MY: I don't remember, either.

TY: Merlinos are pretty well-to-do be- --

MY: I only -- the Merlinos had --

TY: They were pretty well-to-do.

MY: They had a spaghetti, olive oil.

TY: Yeah. They had a comp-, company that made olive oil, and they had spaghetti, so they had -- they were pretty well-to-do. Nice, beautiful brick home.

MY: That's right, yeah.

TY: Yeah.

MY: And, but I'm just trying to recall --

TY: And even there were, are, I think there were several Nikkei family there, and we got, got very close with them. They were one of my -- even Joe's friends were -- a Nisei fellow, right?

JY: Yeah, my two best friends were Nisei kids, yeah.

TY: Yeah.

MY: In Beacon Hill? Yeah.

JY: From -- yeah. Fumio and --

TY: Yeah, my, my best friend and I --

JY: -- and Art Takiuchi.

TY: -- were Norio and Kenji and, and then Paul Tietji was the only hakujin that -- Caucasian that --

JY: Yeah, the Merlino's kid, Lawrence, was a friend of mine.

TY: Yeah -- Lawrence? Oh.

MY: Yeah, that's the kid across the street?

TY: Yeah.

MY: He used to come over all the time.

TY: Yeah, they did. Yeah, I remember that now.

MY: But as for the, and it's, I was trying to think, you know, in my mind about what, what it felt like, and, and as we were talking about our experience in Pacific School where there were more Japanese kids, and the teachers seemed to be more intolerant of my speaking Japanese or doing diff-, something different like if you were eating garlic --

JY: Oh, at Beacon Hill?

MY: No, at Pacific School.

JY: At the other place?

MY: Yeah.

JY: Oh, okay.

MY: Because, because the majority of the kids were Japanese --

TY: Yeah, yeah.

MY: -- I know. Does that have something to do with it? Because -- and then once we moved to Beacon Hill, it just, it felt like, like we just fitted in.

TY: Yeah, well, by then you were speaking English, English pretty well, so --

MY: I was -- by then I was speaking English. I wasn't taking garlic --

TY: Yeah. [Laughs]

MY: I wasn't taking garlic anymore. [Laughs]

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2002 Densho. All Rights Reserved.