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-01-0048

<Begin Segment 48>

AI: Okay, we're, thank you for joining us again, we're here October 9th, 2002, continuing our interview with Tosh Yasutake, May Yamada, and Joe Yasutake. I'm Alice Ito from Densho. Also from Densho are John Pai and Dana Hoshide, videography. Also in the room are Jeni Yamada and Kai Yamada.

So yesterday when we left off before the break, you were just talking about some of the realities of daily life without your father in Seattle. That he had always taken care of the household bills, any kind of household business, and after December 7, 1941, his assets and accounts were all frozen. So you had to take on the responsibilities of paying the bills, finding money, you found your, the family safe in the house, you were able to get to your own school bank accounts for some money, for expenses, and you were talking about that period after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, but before the removal of all the Japanese Americans happened. So I wanted to take you back to that period again, and ask you a little bit more about, as December continued on, of that year, and then of course it was Christmas, holiday season, and then into the next year, other changes in your life, and how your household worked while your father was gone.

MY: Well, we were just discussing that. I think beyond some of those problems of dealing with those things, I left the house to go, I was a live-in babysitter. And I don't remember where they were, it was a photographer and his wife, and a very, one small child. I remember they kind of lived on the hill, and they had a brand-new house. But as I was somewhat removed from the daily life of the family. I went home occasionally, but since I didn't drive, I had to be picked up, and I don't know how often I went home at that point. And when it was that we heard that we had to be, we had to leave to go to camp.

TY: Yeah. Well, unfortunately, I don't remember the detail of --

MY: Where, you were going to school.

TY: And I kind of vaguely remember going to City Light to pay the City Light bill. I think I went on the bus or streetcar, I mean "trackless trolley," I guess we called it at that time. But other than that, I'm not sure... I don't remember how we bought the groceries. I guest we must have -- that ten dollar -- that thousand dollars we found in the safe, with that we lived on several months. But beyond that... and you worked, so --

MY: I was gone, yeah.

TY: -- you helped, you helped pay the bills, too --

MY: A little bit, pay the bills, yeah.

TY: -- after a while. But beyond that I just don't -- and you mentioned that we sold the car, the Buick we had.

JY: Yeah. Where I heard that, I don't know.

MY: Mom must have told you.

JY: It might have been Mike, actually --

MY: Mike.

JY: -- that told me that. And it was a fairly new car.

TY: Yeah, it was.

JY: And that they'd gotten --

TY: In fact, it was a '41 Buick, wasn't it?

JY: Yeah, it was.

TY: So we bought it in the early part of that year, then.

JY: It was almost a brand-new car. And I remember somebody saying that somebody bought it for a fraction of what Dad paid for it. And then they demanded that the gasoline tank be filled up before he would take the car. I think Mike told me that.

TY: Oh, is that right?

AI: About Mike, I was wondering, was he still really ill at this time? At home?

MY: Well, he kind of made a remark-, the thing is, he was being pampered because, in those days, when a person got TB -- and it was a very mild case so he didn't have to leave. Many people with TB had to go to a sanitarium. And the agreement, the doctor felt that it would be all right for Mike to stay in his room and not mingle with the rest of the family, so that he doesn't infect everybody. And so he stayed pretty much in his room. And I remember, that was about a year --

TY: Well, I know that he spent, I know that he spent an awful lot of time in bed --

MY: Yeah, and so then after --

TY: -- and he did lot of reading.

MY: Yeah. So when, after Pearl Harbor he kind of made, he got up and started to, he became healthy. I mean he, I think he was capable before, but my parents, our parents kind of pampered him. Wanted to make sure that he was completely well, so he stayed in bed. So I think that in that respect, he was probably almost fully recovered at that point. We kind of forgot about his illness.

TY: Yeah, because when we went camp, well, he, that picture, that he has, when we get on the bus, and he looked okay.

MY: Oh, yeah. The Seattle Times photo-, and so he was no longer ill. I mean, I think as far as, that was kind of the least of our --

TY: For all intents and purposes, I guess he was well.

MY: Yeah.

JY: The war cured him. [Laughs]

MY: But, so, but it was one of those things, I think that the rest of us were so preoccupied with, it's kind of like the least of our problems, with Mike's health, because he seemed to be okay. So once he got to camp -- he was still very thin, but he had, he recovered quite quickly because of the responsibilities that all of us had to shoulder at that point.

AI: And Joe, excuse me, were you still going to school? Because May had stopped her schooling, you hadn't really graduated yet, that was your senior year, May, but what about you? You were still in grade school. Did you continue on?

JY: You know, I don't know. I don't remember.

MY: You went, you continued going to school.

JY: Did I?

MY: Yeah.

JY: I just don't --

MY: I think that was one thing that Mom thought, you should continue going to school. Tosh stopped going because partly --

TY: Yeah. I stopped going December 7th. Actually, I think maybe it was the final exam, and I decided I didn't want to take the test. [Laughs]

MY: December, yeah, that's --

TY: It was the final exam week, I think.

MY: In December, was it on the semester system?

TY: Pardon?

MY: Were they on a quarter system?

TY: Yeah. Washington's always been a quarter system.

MY: Quarter system, okay. Then, so I remember you went on, continued to go to school.

JY: Hmm. Yeah, I just don't remember that time period. It's a whole blank for me. It's like I woke up and all of a sudden I was in Puyallup, kind of thing. 'Cause I, the whole time period they're talking about, I have just no recollection of it at all.

<End Segment 48> - Copyright © 2002 Densho. All Rights Reserved.