Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Kara Kondo Interview
Narrator: Kara Kondo
Interviewers: Alice Ito (primary), Gail Nomura (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: December 7 & 8, 2002
Densho ID: denshovh-kkara-01-0023

<Begin Segment 23>

GN: Well, how did life change after December 7th?

KK: Oh, of course, you had the curfew. The Isseis were, the Issei leaders were picked up, and so that really crippled, as far as the Issei leadership was concerned. And, by that time, there were some violence or activity, terrorist activities. The Japanese Association building was burned, and other attempts were made to set fire on some other places. So that it, we were made aware, very much aware, that there was a great deal of hostility. But we were so busy trying to take care of our own business of what to take, what to store, what to sell, what to throw out. And, eventually, what to do with what you had.

AI: Did you throw out things? I know that some people felt very scared about having anything Japanese or that tied them to Japan.

KK: Yes. I remember we didn't have very many firearms, anything like that. But my father burying his Japanese books. I still have some that I got later that hasn't molded yet. But I think most of it were contraband, so-called contrabands. But orders came about curfew. Orders came later about restricting your mileage or how, and they came gradually, so, before you knew it, you were living under a great deal of orders. And meanwhile, you had to do something about what to keep, what to store, what to throw out. And you had to contend with people who came to, to pick up things so cheaply and --

AI: Well, you were the oldest --

KK: Yes, I was.

AI: -- child at home, because your sister was married by then.

KK: My sister was married. But I remember just doing things so my parents would not become very frightened. And I would cry every night, after everybody was in bed and think, "Oh, my gosh. What's happening to us? Why are they doing this to us?" And it, it really was not so much frightening, but a very distressing time. You got so you didn't know who to trust and who to depend on. The neighbors who were your friends, you weren't quite sure. Others who were, you weren't quite sure turned out to be very loyal, but were afraid to speak up. We helped the Wapato townspeople in the registration and could hear them saying, "When are they going to leave? We'll sure be glad when they get out of there." And having to listen to people like that who were so-called upright citizens and officials in the, in the town.

And so those who were older and had to do a little more, assist in things, in registering and working with those who evacuated us... I don't know about others, but you got to the place where you were very skeptical about relationships with other people. And you didn't really blame your neighbors or people who would not speak up in your behalf, and you really appreciated the few who did. But --

AI: Tell me more. Why do you say that you didn't, you wouldn't blame those who didn't speak up?

KK: Well, those who would speak up for the Japanese would be very unpopular. They would have to face the consequences. After we, even after we were gone, you see. You, it's the same kind of attitude you had during the Civil Rights movement. You were sympathetic to the African Americans. I'm sure that it would be magnified in some ways so that you, you, but you really got so you didn't quite trust people unless they somehow knew. And because the people you, had some, respected before and were town leaders, it turned out that they were not. They were just as hostile and, and, probably in more polite ways, but... so it was very hard to, to really trust people until you get to know them very thoroughly after that experience.

AI: Well, because here you and your family had grown up in Wapato your entire life. Your folks had been there from the early 1900s.

KK: Sure.

AI: And this, here this is forty years later.

KK: But you see, periods of prejudice or discrimination erupted from time to time over the... so the discrimination and prejudice is very deep-seated, and I think it depends on how it affects you personally. And I think that all of us are capable of, of experiencing that. You might have hostility to somebody else, and I think we can only point to the Civil Rights movement, we can point to the Vietnam days, we can point to what's happening to the Hispanics in my area at the present time -- the immigrants -- Hispanic "illegals," they're called. Or what happened to the Filipinos before us -- after us. Or the Chinese before us. And it's inherent in our culture, I think. And how we view Muslims at the present time. And, and I think all of us have to ask ourselves, are we entirely free of that kind of feeling ourselves? And I can understand that, but you don't condone it, of course.


AI: Well, we're continuing our interview with Kara Kondo. And right before our break, we had been talking about how life changed after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. And you had also told us some about how you could understand that some of the white community members would be fearful of standing up on behalf of the Japanese Americans. And yet, some did.

KK: Yes. We had two, especially two people, prominent members of the community. One was the proprietor of (the Short's) Hardware Store in Wapato, Esther Boyd, who testified at the Tolan Committee, as well as Dan McDonald, who was an orchardist in Donald -- and that's, well, about two miles north of Wapato -- who also testified, and, at the Tolan Committee. And it was not a request made by the Japanese community, but from their own conscience. And both helped the community by, either storing some valuables, or being trustees of some of the property. Both, Mr. McDonald (...) was a trustee of the Buddhist church and kept some of their Buddhist church altar pieces in his care, and Esther Boyd served in many other ways. Esther Boyd, especially, suffered the wrath, or the, of those people who failed to understand and boycotted her hardware store. And probably she suffered other indignities because of the support for the Japanese community. But we were ever grateful for their support. [Coughs] Excuse me.

In Wapato, I think all the areas where the Japanese were, left, experienced... it was a frightening experience to return to that area. It was in Wapato where every business in, in Wapato had "No Japs Wanted" signs, and there was a distinct feeling of, of hostility. And, among most of the people and, and some of those who came to test the area, thinking of coming back, if they stopped and talked to some of the business people, were encouraged to move on. It was a time when the Methodist church was occupied by, by a family who refused to move. Miss Pete, Azalea Pete was a missionary and had worked among the eastern Oregon residents, who were former Yakima valleyites, came back there to open up the church as a hostel and had to take very strong measures to have the people, residents, move. And the same way as far as the Buddhist kaikan that became a hostel. I remember the first Christmas, people were very (frightened), those who had returned sat around discussing what would happen, whether they would remain in the area or to move on someplace. And it was more frightening than, I believe, (than) when we left. The feeling was very, very hostile, and everyone felt unwelcomed.

It gradually changed, however, through the years. It took quite a while, but at that time, those who might have had good business relationships with townspeople could no longer feel that kind of trust. And it gradually has returned to normalcy, but I think that the war, itself, has taken... took a, took toll in many, many ways.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2002 Densho. All Rights Reserved.