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-01-0038

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AI: So you and Tak were in Chicago only for a short time.

KK: Oh, just a few days, and then he had to report back to, to Fort Knox. And we, you know, these are periods of very, I can't put the time, and, I remember being in Louisville. I remember attending University of Louisville for a while and also working for a while. And then he was transferred to Carlisle, Carlisle Barracks in Pennsylvania to get his, he became a candidate for officers training, and I moved to Carlisle, Pennsylvania. And --

AI: Oh, excuse me. Before we go into Pennsylvania, I wanted to ask you about your impressions when you first got to Kentucky because this is an area of the country quite different from where you had grown up.

KK: Yes, it was different. And, but the southern people -- this is kind of a border town -- but southern people are very gracious people, I found. And, and through the Fellowship of Reconciliation and the Methodist Church -- we attended the Methodist Church. It was very close to where we lived, and through the Methodist Church, people who were FOR people and Methodists took me in, and the friendships have continued a long time, and they sort of helped me through the transition period of being from the camp and being outside.

But I'll have to tell you about one incident. And I have the, still have the notes of my first talk. I was asked to, through the Eurys, who was a Methodist and a member of the YMCA, had said, "Oh, I think that this story should be told to our businessman's group." And, and I was invited to lunch. And I had made copious notes to tell them about the evacuation, and so I went through what I thought was a fairly comprehensive speech. And here the men... after I got through, there was silence. Nobody said anything. They kind of looked at each other and kind of didn't look at me. And I thought, oh, what a, I was a failure. And I felt really bad about it until, and I think I told the Eurys I thought that I... I didn't think I was very successful. And they said, "They were so stunned they didn't know what to say." [Laughs] It didn't make me feel much better, but, but I have kept these notes all through the years and I do refer them to some, to... from time to time. They were basic notes. It doesn't take me through redress or anything, but --

GN: What were the main point or two that you wanted to convey to that audience?

KK: I probably took them through chronologically, which probably wasn't what they wanted to hear. Or, you know, they, they could understand that. But I don't think I told them about the human stories within camp, which probably would... they would understand. I think some of them probably knew nothing about the evacuation. Others have, may have heard about it. But I don't, I don't know what response I expected, but maybe some questions. And --

AI: When I looked at your notes, earlier your -- the notes that you were just showing -- I noticed you had quite a bit of information for them about the, the dates and the, the orders that came. Of the exclusion order itself, 9066, the orders to get ready to be evacuated. You even had the orders about curfew and travel restrictions. So you had quite a bit of information for them.

KK: Yes. And, and, and perhaps it was too much for them, you see. Because I was very conscious of what led to the incarceration and the orders that came by and how we were restricted early on after December the 7th. And, but, probably, that wasn't what interested them. They just wanted to know why, why I was in Louisville, Kentucky. [Laughs] Strange face.

AI: Well, I also to ask you to take a look at the very back of your notes, the last part of your notes. And I noticed there that you had ended with a, a kind of a statement to them. I wonder if, if you're able to read that because --

KK: You mean -- I haven't read this for years, Alice -- you mean the ones about lack of privacy and all that?

AI: Right. From below "lack of privacy."

KK: "We still feel that the basis on which we were evacuated (because of racial extraction) was unjust and although we believe our incarceration was illegal (because of American Bill of Rights) we have decided that the fullest cooperation of the government" -- to the government -- "is very best way to prove our loyalty and to our country."

I haven't, I haven't read these over for years. I think what I say now is -- well, I never read the last one -- trying to prove our loyalty. I don't think it's up to me to try to prove it, really.

AI: But at the time...

KK: Yeah, at that time, I think it was very important to the public because that's the way they understand things. Why were they incar-, why would this happen?

AI: I found it very moving that you -- in your original notes there -- that you did make a very strong statement that you believed that it was illegal and unjust.

KK: Oh, I think that all of us felt that. But it needed to be repeated, I believe. They may question it. You know, people still question it. So you can't repeat it enough, I guess. Just by saying so doesn't change people's ideas.

GN: What was it like to be the young Nisei wife of a military person in Kentucky?

KK: Well, the military treated me very well. But... and, and generally I felt no prejudice and had, I remember various activities that involved other people in discussing the feeling between the North and the South. That was still going on. And when I tried to interject something, they said, "Just be quiet. You're not even a Northerner. You're a Westerner." [Laughs] So they didn't regard me as being somebody who was Japanese-faced, but being a Westerner made a difference to them. But I have made a number of friends from Louisville and later on in Pennsylvania, had lots of good friends who didn't care whether I was from camp or whether I was Japanese descent or whatever. I think it becomes on a personal basis, even as it does today.

<End Segment 38> - Copyright © 2002 Densho. All Rights Reserved.